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(Author of " Sailing Ships &• Their Story ") 




All rights reserved 

I . ■ I « « ' c . <. 

I DESIRE to acknowledge the courtesy of the Master 
and Fellows of Magdalene College, Cambridge, for 
having permitted me to reproduce the three illus- 
trations facing pages 212, 228, and 230. These are from 
MSS. in the Pepysian Library. The Viking anchor and 
block tackle are taken from INIr. Gabriel Gustafson's 
Noi'ges Oldtid, by permission of Messrs. Alb. Cammer- 
meyer's, Forlag, Kristiania. The two illustrations on 
pages 123 and 132 are here reproduced by the kind 
permission of Commendatore Cesare Agosto Levi from 
his "Navi Venete." The Viking rowlock and rivet are 
taken from Du Chaillu's "Viking Age," by the courtesy 
of Mr. John Murray. To all of the above I would wish 

to return thanks. 

E. Keble Chatterton. 




List of Illustrations .... 

I. Introduction 

II. The Birth of the Nautical Arts 

III. The Development of the Marine Instinct 

IV. Mediterranean Progress 
V. Rome and the Sea . 

VI. The Viking Mariners 
VII. Seamanship and Navigation in the 
VIII. The Period of Columbus 
IX. The Early Tudor Period 
X. The Elizabethan Age 
XI. The Seventeenth Century 
XII. The Eighteenth Century 
XIII. The Nineteenth Century 
Glossary .... 






















A Ship of Yesterday (a tea clipper before the wind) 

To face title-page 
A Seventeenth-Century Dutch Dockyard Headpiece to Preface 

Spithead in the Early Nineteenth Century To face 2 

Old-fashioned Topsail Schooner „ 8 

"River sailors rather than blue-water seamen"*' ' 13 

" Mine be a mattress on the poop "" 34 

Cast of a Relief showing Rowers on a Trireme „ 38 

Vase in the form of a Trireme"'s Prow 42 

Portions of Early Mediterranean Anchor 44 

Shield Signalling 49 

Greek Penteconter from an Ancient Vase 51 

The Egyptian Corn-Ship Goddess Isis 58 

The " Korax " or Boarding Bridge in Action 63 

Sketches of Ancient Ships, by Richard Cook, r.a. „ 64 

Ancient Coins illustrating Types of Rams 65 

Bronze Figurehead of Roman Ship 66 

Sketches of Ancient Ships, by Richard Cook, r.a. „ 66 

Two Coins depicting Naumachiae 68 

A Roman Naumachia „ 68 

Chart to illustrate Caesar's crossing the English Channel 71 

Hull of Roman Ship found at Westminster 78 

Details of Roman Ship found at Westminster 80 




Details of Roman Ship found at Westminster 82 

Primitive Navigation of the Vikings 89 

Details of Viking Ships and Tackle 99 

Vikings boarding an Enemy 102 

Viking Ship with Awning up 111 

Thirteenth-Century Merchant Sailing Ship 123 

Fourteenth-Century Portolano of the Mediterranean To face 1 24 

Prince Henry the Navigator „ 126 

Fifteenth-Century Shipbuilding Yard 132 

A Fifteenth-Century Ship „ 134 

The Fleet of Richard I setting forth for the Crusades 139 

A Medieval Sea-going Ship „ 146 

Fifteenth-Century Caravel, after a Delineation by Columbus 

To face 158 

" Ordered the crew ... to lay out an anchor astern " 162 

Fifteenth-Century Caravel, after a Delineation by Columbus „ 164 

Three-masted Caravel „ 166 

Sixteenth-Century Caravel at Sea „ 166 

Sixteenth-Century Caravel at Anchor „ 170 

Sixteenth-Century Astrolabe supposed to have been on board 

a Ship of the Armada To face 172 

Astrolabe used by the English Sixteenth-Century Navigators 173 

Sixteenth-Century Navigator using the Cross-stafF 176 

Sixteenth-Century Compass Card 177 

An Old Nocturnal To face 178 

Sixteenth-Century Four-Masted Ship „ 186 

Elizabethans boarding an Enemy's Ship 187 



Elizabethan Steering-Gear 189 

Sixteenth-Century Ship chasing a Galley To face 190 

Waist, Quarter-deck, and Poop of the Revenge 192 

Sixteenth-Century Three-masted Ship „ 192 

Riding Bitts on the Gun Deck of the Revenge 195 

Plan of Early Seventeenth-Century Ship 197 

Sixteenth-Century Warship at Anchor „ 198 

Drake's Revenge at Sea 201 

Sixteenth-Century Mariners learning Navigation „ 206 

Chart of A.D. 1589 211 

Ship Designer with his Assistant „ 212 

Chart of the Thames from the First Published Atlas „ 214 

Diagram illustrating the use of the " Geometricall Square " 215 

Sixteenth-Century Ship before the wind „ 216 

Early Seventeenth-Century Warship „ 218 

Early Seventeenth-Century Harbour „ 222 

Early Seventeenth-Century Dutch East Indiamen „ 226 

" The Perspective Appearance of a Ship's Body " „ 228 

" The Orthographick Simmetrye"" of a Seventeenth-Century Ship 

To face 230 

Early Seventeenth-Century Dutch West Indiamen „ 232 

Fitting out a Seventeenth-Century Dutch West Indiaman „ 236 

Seventeenth-Century Dutch Shipbuilding Yard „ 240 

Seventeenth-Century First-Rate Ship „ 244 

Section of a Three-Decker „ 246 

Nocturnal 247 




Building and launching Ships in the Eighteenth Century To face 248 

Collier Brig „ 250 

Boxhauling „ 252 

Eighteenth-Century " Bittacle '' 253 

Interiors of Eighteenth-Century Men-of-War „ 254 

Quarter-deck of an Eighteenth-Century Frigate 255 

Collier Brig discharging Cargo „ 256 

Eighteenth-Century Man-of-War „ 258 

Collier Brigs beating up the Swin 259 

Model of H.M.S. Triumph „ 260 

" Compelled to let the ship lie almost on her beam-ends " 261 

An interesting bit of Seamanship „ 262 

An ingenious Sail-Spread „ 264 

Eighteenth-Century Three-Decker „ 266 

Sterns of the Invincible and Glorioso „ 268 

Model of an English Frigate, 1750 „ 270 

A S2-gun Frigate ready for Launching „ 272 

Launching a Man-of-War in the year 1805 „ 274 

Sheer-Hulk „ 276 

H.M.S. Prince „ 278 

An Early Nineteenth-Century Design for a Man-of- War's Stern 

To face 280 

Course, Topsail, and Topgallant Sail of an Early Nineteenth- 
Century Ship 281 
Stern of H.M.S. Jma To face 282 
A Brig of War's 12-pounder Carronade „ 283 



A West Indiaman in Course of Construction To face 284 

A Three-Decker on a Wind „ 285 

The Brig Wolf „ 286 

A Frigate under all Sail „ 287 

,Man in the Chains heaving the Lead 287 

H.M.S. Cleopatra endeavouring to save the Crew of the Brig 

Fisher To face 288 

H.M.S. Hastings „ 289 

Model of the Carmarthenshire „ 290 


{At End of Volume) 

I. Body Plan, etc., of Early Nineteenth-Century 74-gun Ship. 
IL A Portable Crab Winch of the Early Nineteenth Century. 

III. Longitudinal Plan of Early Nineteenth-Century 74-gun Ship. 

IV. A 330-ton Merchant Ship of the Early Nineteenth Century. 

V. Shrouds of Mainmast on Early Nineteenth-Century Ship. 

VI. Design of the Stern of Early Nineteenth-Century 330-ton 
Merchant Ship. 

VII. Midship section of Early Nineteenth-Century 330-ton Mer- 
chant Ship. 

VIII. Longitudinal Plan of Early Nineteenth-Century 330- ton 
Merchant Ship. 

IX. Plans of Early Nineteenth-Century 74-gun Ship. 

X. Iron Clipper Sailing Ship Lord of the Isles. 

XI. The Wooden Clipper Ship Schomherg, 


"The sea language is not soon learned, much less understood, 
being only proper to him that has served his apprenticeship : besides 
that, a boisterous sea and stormy weather will make a man not bred 
on it so sick, that it bereaves him of legs and stomach and courage, 
so much as to fight with his meat. And in such weather, when he 
hears the seamen cry starboard, or port, or to bide alooff, or flat a 
sheet, or haul home a cluling, he thinks he hears a barbarous speech, 
which he conceives not the meaning of." 

(Sir William Monson's Naval Tracts.) 




'N "Sailing Ships and their Story" I 
endeavoured to trace the evohition of 
the ship from the very earUest times 
of which we possess any historical 
data at all down to the canvas - 
setting craft of to-day. In " Fore and 
Aft " I confined myself exclusively 
to vessels which are rigged fore- 
and-aft wise, and attempted to show 
the causes and modifications of that 
rig which has served coasters, pilots, 
fishermen, and yachtsmen for so 
many generations. 
But, now that we have watched so closely the pro- 
gress of the sailing ship herself, noting the different 
stages which exist between the first dug-out and the 
present-day full-rigged ship or the superb racing 
yacht, we can turn aside to consider chronologically 
what is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of all. 
On the assumption that activity is for the most part 
more interesting as a study than repose, that human 
activity is the most of all deserving in its ability to 
attract, and that from our modern standpoint of 
knowledge and attainment we are able to look with 
sympathetic eyes on the efforts and even the mistakes 
of our forefathers on the sea, we shall be afforded in 
the following pages a study of singular charm. 

B 1 

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For, if you will, we are to consider not why the dug- 
out became in time an ocean carrier, but rather how 
men managed to build, launch, equip, and fit out 
different craft in all ages. We shall see the vessels on 
the shipyards rising higher and higher as they approach 
completion, until the day comes for them to be sent 
down into the water. We shall see royalty visiting 
the yards and the anxious look on the shipwright's 
face lest the launching should prove a failure, lest all 
his carefully wrought plans should after months of 
work prove of naught. We shall see the ships, at last 
afloat, having their masts stepped and their rigging 
set-up, their inventory completed, and then finally, 
we shall watch them for the first time spread sail, 
bid farewell to the harbour, and set forth on their long 
voyages to wage war or to discover, to open up trade 
routes or to fight a Crusade. And then, when once 
they have cleared from the shelter of the haven we 
are free to watch not merely the ship, but the ways of 
ship and men. We are anxious to note carefully how 
they handled these various craft in the centuries 
of history ; how they steered them, how they furled and 
set sail, how these ships behaved in a storm, how they 
fought the ships of other nations and pirates, how they 
made their landfalls with such surprising accuracy. 
As, for instance, seeing that the Norsemen had neither 
compass nor sextant, by what means were they able 
in their open ships to sail across the Atlantic and make 
America ? In short, we shall apply ourselves to watch- 
ing the evolution of seamanship, navigation, and naval 
strategy down the ages of time. 

But we shall not stop at that ; for we want to obtain 
an intimate picture of the life lived on board these 
many ships. We would, so to speak, walk their decks, 
fraternise with the officers and men, adventure into their 
cabins, go aloft with them, join their mess, keep sea 

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and watch in their company in fine sunny days and the 
dark stormy nights of winter. We are minded to watch 
them prepare for battle, and even accompany them 
into the fight, noting the activities, the perils, and the 
hardships of the seamen, the clever tactics, the moves 
and counter-moves, the customs of the sea and of the 
ship especially. Over boundless, deep-furrowed oceans 
not sighting land for weeks ; or in short coasting voyages 
hurrying from headland to headland before impending 
tempest ; or pursued by an all-conquering enemy, we shall 
follow these ships and men in order to be able to live 
their lives again, to realise something of the fears and 
hopes, the disappointments, and the glories of the 
seaman's career in the past. 

I can promise the reader that if he loves ships, if he 
has a sympathetic interest in that curious composite 
creature the seaman — who throughout history has been 
compelled to endure the greatest hardships and depri- 
vations for the benefit of those whose happy fortune 
it is to live on shore — he will find in the ensuing pages 
much that will both surprise him and entertain him. 
I have drawn on every possible source of information 
in order to present a full and accurate picture, and 
wherever possible have given the actual account of 
an eye-witness. How much would we not give to-day 
to be allowed to go on board the crack ship of the 
second century, for instance, and see her as she ap- 
peared to an onlooker ? Well, Lucian has happily left 
us in dialogue form exactly the information that we 
want about the " monster vessel of extraordinary 
dimensions " which had just put in at the Piraeus. On a 
later page the reader will accompany the visitor up the 
gangway and go round the ship, and be able to listen to 
the conversation of these eager enthusiasts, just as he 
would listen attentively to a party of friends who had 
just been shown over the latest mammoth steamship. 



What the captain said of his ship, his yarns about gales 
o' wind, how great were her dimensions, how much 
water she drew, what was the average return to the 
owner from the ship's cargo — it is all here for those 
who care to read it. A thousand years hence, how 
interested the world would be to read the first im- 
pressions of one who had been allowed to see over the 
Mauretania, or Olympic, or their successors ! In the 
same way to-day, how amazingly delightful it is still to 
possess an intimate picture of a second - century 
Egyptian corn-ship ! 

We are less concerned with the evolution of design 
and build of ships in this present book than with the 
manner of using these craft. How, for example, on 
those Viking ships which were scarcely decked at all, 
did the crew manage to eat and sleep ? Did the ancients 
understand the use of the sounding lead ? how did they 
lay their ships up for the winter ? what was the division of 
labour on board ? — and a thousand questions of this sort 
are answered here, for this is just the kind of information 
that the reader so often asks for, and so rarely gets, fre- 
quently being disappointed at the gaps left in historical 
works. Believing firmly that a knowledge of the 
working and fighting of the ships in history is worthy of 
every consideration, I have for years been collecting 
data which have taken shape in the following narrative. 
Seamanship, like the biggest sailing craft, cannot have 
much longer to live if we are able to read the signs of 
the times. Steamanship rather than seamanship is 
what is demanded nowadays ; so that before long the 
latter will become quite a lost art. It is therefore time 
that we should collect and set forth the ways and 
customs of a fast-dying race. Seamanship is, of course, 
a changing quality, but at heart it is less different than 
one might at first imagine. I venture to suggest that if 
by any wonderful means you could transfer the men 


of a modern crack 19-metre racing cutter to the more 
clumsy type of Charles II' s Mary, she would be handled 
very little differently from the manner in which those 
Caroline seamen were wont to sail her. Similarly, a 
crew taken from one of the old clippers of about 1870, 
and transferred — if it were possible — to one of the 
Elizabethan galleons, would very soon be able to 
manage her in just the same manner as Drake and his 
colleagues. It is largely a matter of sea-bias, of 
instinct, of a sympathy and adaptability for the work. 
And in such vastly different craft as the Greek and 
Roman galley, the Spanish carack, the Viking ship of 
the north, the bean-shaped craft of medieval England, 
and so on down to the ships of the present day, you 
find — quite regardless of country or century — men 
doing the same things under such vastly different 

The way Caesar worked his tides crossing the English 
Channel when about to invade Britain in 55 B.C., or 
the way William the Conqueror a thousand years later 
wi-estled with the same problem but in different ships 
— these and like matters cannot but appeal to anyone 
who is gifted with imagination and a keen desire for 
knowledge. And then — perhaps some will find it the 
most interesting of all — there comes that wonderful 
story of the dawn and rise of the navigational science 
which to-day enables our biggest ships to make passages 
across the ocean with the regularity of the train, and to 
make a landfall with an exactness that is nothing short of 
marvellous considering that the last land was left weeks 
ago. It is a story that is irresistible in its appeal for 
our consideration, firstly because of its ultimate value to 
the progress of nations, and secondly because no finer 
example could be afforded us of the persistency of 
human endeavour to overcome very considerable 
obstacles. It is a little difficult just at first to place 



oneself in the position of those navigators of the early 
centuries. To-day we are so accustomed to modern 
navigational methods, we have been wont so long to 
rely on them for finding our way across the sea, that it 
requires a great effort of the imagination to conceive 
of men crossing the Atlantic and other oceans — not to 
speak of long coasting voyages — without chart or 
compass, sextant or log-line. There are many names 
in history which very rightly have won the unstinted 
applause of humanity irrespective of national boundaries. 
These names are held in the highest honour for the 
wonderful inventions and benefits which have been 
brought about. But there are two among others which, 
as it seems to me, the world has not yet honoured in 
an adequate manner. These two — Pytheas and Prince 
Henry the Navigator— are separated by thirteen or 
fourteen hundred years, but their inestimable help 
consisted in making the ocean less a trackless expanse 
than a limited space whereon the mariner was not 
permanently lost, but could find his position along its 
surface even though the land was not sighted for many* 
a day. Think of the indirect results of this new ability. 
Think of the subsequent effects on the history of the 
world — the establishment of new trade routes conse- 
quent on the discovery of new continents, the impetus 
to enterprise, the peopling of new lands, the rise of 
young nations, the growth of sea-power, the spread of 
Christianity, the accumulation of fortunes and the 
consequent encouragement given to the arts and 
sciences. It is indeed a surprising but unhappy fact 
that humanity, because normally it has its habitation 
on land, forgets how much it owes to the sea for almost 
everything that it possesses. Perhaps this statement 
may be less applicable to the European continent, but 
it is in every sense true of all the other parts of the 


Among the decisive battles of the world, among 
the discoveries of new lands, among the vast trade 
routes, how many of these do not come under the 
category of maritime ? And yet in many an able-bodied, 
vigorous man, who owes most of his happiness and 
prosperity to the sea in some way or another, you 
find a spirit of antagonism to the sea, a positive 
hatred of ships, an utter indifference to the progress 
of maritime affairs. Hence, too, consistently following 
the same principle, the world always treats the sea- 
faring man of all ranks in the worst possible manner. 
It matters not that the sailorman pursues a life of 
hardship in all climes and all weathers away from the 
comforts of the shore and the enjoyment of his own 
family. He brings the merchant's goods through 
storm and stress of weather across dangerous tracts of 
sea, but he gets the lowest remuneration and the vilest 
treatment. He goes off whaling or fishing, perhaps 
never to come home again, performing work that brings 
out the finest qualities of manhood, pluck, daring, 
patience, unselfishness, and cool, quick decision at 
critical moments. Physically, too, he sacrifices much; 
but what does he get in return ? And then think also 
of the men on the warships. But it is no new grievance. 

Throughout history the world has had but scant con- 
sideration for the sons of the sea, whether fighters, 
adventurers, or freight-carriers. You have only to 
read the complaints of seamen in bygone times to note 
this. One may indeed wonder sometimes that through- 
out the world, and in fact throughout history, men 
have ever been found knowingly to undertake the sea- 
faring life with all its hardships and all its privations. 
To people whose ideas are shaped only by the possi- 
bilities of loss and gain, who are lacking in imaginative 
endowment, in romance and the joy of adventure, it 
is certainly incredible that any man should seriously 



choose the sea as his profession in preference to a hfe of 
comfort and financial success on shore. Indeed, the 
gulf between the two temperaments is so great that it 
were almost useless to hazard an explanation. The 
plainest and best answer is to assert that there are 
two classes of humanity, neither more nor less. Of 
these the one class is born with the sea-sense ; the 
other does not possess that faculty, never has and 
never could, no matter what the opportunities and 
training that might be available. Therefore the 
former, in spite of his lack of experience, is attracted 
by the sea-life notwithstanding its essential draw- 
backs ; the latter would not be tempted to that avoca- 
tion even by the possibility of capturing Spanish 
treasure-ships, or of discovering an unknown island 
rich with minerals and precious stones. 

From a close study of those records which have been 
handed down to us of maritime incidents and affairs, I am 
convinced that the seaman-character has always been 
much the same. It makes but little difference whether its 
possessor commanded a Viking ship or a Spanish galleon. 
To-day in any foreign port, granted that both parties 
have a working knowledge of each other's language, 
you will find that there is a closer bond between ship- 
men of different nationalities than there is between, 
say, a British seaman and a British landsman. For 
seamen, so to speak, belong to a nation of their own, 
which is ruled not by kings or governments, but by 
the great forces of nature which have to be respected 
emphatically. Therefore the crews of every ship are 
fellow-subjects of the same nationality, no matter 
whether they be composed of a mingled assemblage of 
Britishers, Dagoes, " Dutchmen," and niggers. 

So, as we proceed with our study, we shall look at 
the doings of different ships and sailors with less 
regard for the land in which they happened to be born 

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than for that amazing republic which never dies, which 
exists regardless of the rise and fall of governments, 
which for extent is altogether unrivalled by any 
nationality that has ever been seen. We shall look 
into the characteristics, the customs, and the manifold 
activities of this maritime commonwealth, which is so 
totally different from any of our land institutions and 
which has always had to face and wrestle with problems 
of a kind so totally different from those prevailing on 

" That art of masts, sail-crowded, fit to break, 
Yet stayed to strength, and back-stayed into rake. 
The Hfe demanded by that art, the keen, 
Eye-puckered, hard-case seamen, silent, lean. 
They are grander things than all the art of towns. 
Their tests are tempests and the sea that drowns." 




F all the activities of human nature 
few are so interesting and so in- 
sistent on our sympathy as the 
eternal combat which goes on 
between man on the one side and 
the forces of Nature on the other. 
Conscious of his own limitations 
and his own littleness, man has 
nevertheless throughout the ages 
striven hard to overcome these 
forces and to exercise his own 
freedom. But he has done this not 
so much by direct opposition as by employing Nature 
to overcome Nature ; and there can be no better 
instance of this than is found in the art of tacking, 
whereby the mariner harnesses the wind in order to 
enable him to go against the wind. 

Winds and tides and waves are mightier than all the 
strength of humanity put together. The statement 
was as true in pre-Dynastic times as it is to-day. For a 
long time man was appalled by their superhuman 
strength and capabilities ; he preferred to have nothing 
to do with them. Those nations which had their 
habitation inland naturally feared them most. But as 
familiarity with danger engenders a certain contempt, 
so those who dwelt by the sea began to lose something 
of their awe and to venture to wrestle with the great 


trio of wind, wave, and tide. Had they not exercised 
such courage and independence the history and develop- 
ment of the world would have been entirely different. 

It is obvious that the growth of the arts of the sea — 
by which is meant ship designing and building, seaman- 
ship and navigation — can only occur among seafaring 
people. You cannot expect to find these arts prosper- 
ing in the centre of a continent, but only along the 
fringe where land meets sea. And, similarly, where 
you find very little coast, or a very dangerous coast, or 
a more convenient land route than the sea, you will 
not find the people of that country taking to the awe- 
inspiring sea without absolute necessity. This state- 
ment is so obvious in itself, so well borne out by history 
and so well supported by facts, that it would scarcely 
seem to need much elucidation. Even to-day, even in 
an age which has so much to be thankful for in respect 
of conveniences, we actually hear of landsmen looking 
forward with positive horror to an hour's crossing the 
Channel in a fast and able steamship, with its turbines, 
its comfortable cabins, and the rest. If it were possible 
to reach the Continent by land rather than water they 
would do so and rejoice. So it was in the olden times 
thousands of years ago ; so, no doubt, it will ever be. 

Strictly speaking, notwithstanding that the Egyptians 
did an enormous amount of sailing ; notwithstanding 
that they were great shipbuilders and that their in- 
fluence is still felt in every full-rigged ship, yet it is an 
indisputable fact, as Professor Maspero, the distin- 
guished Egyptologist, remarks, that they were not 
acquainted with the sea even if they did not utterly dis- 
like it. For their country had but little coast, and was for 
the most part bordered by sand-hills and marshes which 
made it uninhabitable for those who might otherwise 
have dwelt by the shore and become seafarers. On the 
contrary, the Egyptians preferred the land routes to 



the sea. It is true that they had the Mediterranean on 
their north and the Red Sea on their east, both of 
which they alluded to as the " very-green." True, 
also, it is that there was at least one great sea expedi- 
tion to the Land of Punt, but this was an exception to 
their usual mode of life. 

At the same time, though they were primarily river 
sailors rather than blue-water seamen, yet they had 
used the Nile so thoroughly and so persistently, both 
for rowing and for sailing, that on the occasions when 
they took to the sea itself they were bound to come out 
of the ordeal fairly well, just as a Thames waterman, 
accustomed all his life to frail craft and smooth waters, 
would be likely to make a moderately good seaman if 
his work were suddenly changed from the river to the 
ocean. From childhood and through generations they 
had worked their square-sailed craft on the Nile and 
acquired a thorough knowledge of watermanship, and 
when the crews of Thebes manned those ships which 
carried Queen Hatsopsitu's expedition to Punt and 
returned in safety back to their homes, they were able 
to put their lessons learned on the Nile to the best of 
use on the Red Sea. 

So also on the Mediterranean the Egyptian ships 
were seen. We know that the galleys of Rameses II 
plied regularly between Tanis and Tyre. This was no 
smooth- water passage, for the Syrian sea could be very 
rough, and on a later page we shall give the actual 
experience of an Egyptian skipper who had a pretty 
bad time hereabouts in his ship. Even those skilful 
seamen, the Phoenicians, found it required a good deal 
of care to avoid the current which flowed along their 
coasts and brought to them the mud from the mouths 
of the Nile. Now it was but natural that when the 
Egyptians took to the sea they should use, for their 
trading voyages to Syria or their expedition to Punt, 


craft very similar to those which they were wont to 
sail on the Nile. In fact, it was possible for one and the 
same ship to be used for river and sea. In my " Sailing 
Ships and their Story," the appearance of the Egyptian 

" River sailors rather than blue-water seamen 

ships has been so thoroughly discussed that it is hardly 
necessary to go further into that matter at present. It 
is enough to state that they were decked both at bow 
and stern, that short, narrow benches were placed close 
to the bulwarks, leaving an empty space in the centre 



where the cargo could be stowed, and that there were 
fifteen rowers a side. There was one mast about 24 feet 
liigh setting one squaresail which was about 45 feet 
along its foot, and in addition to the oarsmen there 
were four topmen, a couple of helmsmen, and one 
pilot at the bow, who gave the necessary instructions 
to the helmsmen as to the course to be taken. Finally, 
there was an overseer to see that the rowers were kept 
up to their work and not allowed to slack. 

On the whole the Egyptians were a peace-loving 
nation and not great fighters ; but there were times 
when they had to engage in naval warfare, and on such 
occasions the ship's bulwarks were raised by a long 
mantlet which shielded the bodies of the oarsmen, 
leaving only their heads exposed. And there were 
soldiers, too, placed on board these Egyptian ships in 
time of warfare. Two were stationed on the forecastle, 
one was in the fighting-top high on the mast, whilst 
the remainder were disposed on the bridge and quarter- 
deck, ready to shoot their arrows into the approaching 

The navigation of the Egyptian seamen was but 
elementary. They coasted for the most part, rarely 
venturing out of sight of land, fixing their positions by 
familiar landmarks. This was by day ; but at night 
they lay-to until the dawn returned, when they were 
enabled to resume their journey. Such methods, of 
course, demanded a longer time than more able sea- 
men would have required, but the Egyptians were in 
no hurry, so it mattered not. It is patent enough, from 
the many representations which we find of craft on the 
Egyptian monuments which have been unearthed, 
that ships and boats played a highly important part in 
the life and habits of the Egyptians ; but beyond the 
funereal customs and the connection which these craft 
had with their religious ideas, we know but little, if we 


except those models and those representations of their 
bigger ships seen with sail and mast. It is unquestion- 
able that the shipbuilding industry was one. of the 
most important activities which these Nile-dwellers 
engaged in ; and illustrations still exist which show a 
shipwright's yard of the Sixth Dynasty. We can see 
the men busily at work, whilst the dockyard manager 
or superintendent is carried in a kind of Sedan-chair to 
see how the work is progressing. Some are engaged 
hammering and chipping away at the wood that is to 
become a boat ; some are fixing the different sections 
in place ; whilst others are setting up the truss which 
was employed for preventing the ship from " hogging." 

But already by the close of the Third Dynasty, 
Professor Flinders Petrie says, the Egyptian ship- 
builders were using quite large supplies of wood for 
their craft. In one year alone, Senofern constructed 
sixty ships and imported forty ships of cedar. When 
we consider that the Nile was the great national high- 
way of Egypt, it was but natural that shipbuilding 
should be one of the most important trades. There 
were, first, the light skiffs which could be easily carried 
from place to place. There were also the larger freight- 
carriers which sailed the Nile and the open sea ; and 
lastly, there were the houseboats, a kind of modern 
dahabeeah. The small skiffs were made of reeds for 
lightness, and coated with pitch. They were punted 
along the shallows with a pole, or paddled. They could 
carry only a couple of people, and were practically 
ferry-boats or dinghies. But the larger boats were 
built of wood, and probably sometimes of acacia. The 
masts were of fir which was imported from Syria, the 
sails being occasionally of papyrus, but probably also 
of linen. 

The lotus plant played a conspicuous part in Egyptian 
shipbuilding. We see the smaller craft being strength- 



ened by the stalks of this plant, bundles of which are 
depicted being carried down to the yard on the backs 
of the shipwright's men. The tail-piece, even of the 
biggest sea-going craft, is shown to be in the shape of a 
lotus bud or flower. That they knew how to build 
ships of great tonnage at these dockyards is evident 
from the fact that Sesostris had a sacred barge con- 
structed that was 280 cubits long. And it was doubt- 
less owing to the great length of the Nile sailing ships, 
and their consequent inability to turn quickly, that we 
find it unusual for the Egyptian ships to have only a 
single steering oar ; very frequently there was one 
each side at the quarter. 

More than this it is difficult to state regarding the 
manner in which they employed their ships. There is 
indeed very much that we should like to know, and we 
cannot be too thankful that modern exploration has 
actually revealed so many pictorial representations. 
The Egyptians were not instinctively seamen as the 
Phoenicians and the Vikings, and if there had been no 
Nile it is probable that the sea and its coast might have 
meant even less to them than was actually the case. 
Nor was it any different with the Assyrians, whose 
kings feared the sea for a long time. They never 
ventured on its surface without being absolutely com- 
pelled. At a later stage, when their victories brought 
them to the shores of the Mediterranean, they were 
constrained to admire its beauty, and presently even 
took a certain amount of pleasure in sailing on its 
bosom, but nothing would tempt them far from land 
or to make a voyage. 

But then there came a new precedent when Sen- 
nacherib embarked his army on board a fleet and went 
in search of the exiles of Bit-Iakin. The only ships 
that were at his disposal were those belonging to the 
Chaldean States, These craft were in every way un- 


suitable ; they were obsolete, clumsy, heavy, bad sea- 
boats, and slow. During his wars, however, he had 
seen the famous sailors of Sidon, and noted alike the 
progress which these seafarers had made in actual 
shipbuilding, and in the handling of their craft at sea. 
These were of course Phoenicians, and among his 
prisoners Sennacherib found a sufficient number of 
Phoenicians to build for him a fleet, establishing one 
shipbuilding yard on the Euphrates and another on 
the Tigris. The result was that they turned out a 
number of craft of the galley type with a double 
row of oarsmen. These two divisions of newly built 
craft met on the Euphrates not far from the sea, the 
Euphrates being always navigable. The contingent 
from the Tigris, however, had to come by the canal which 
united the two rivers. And then, manned with crews 
from Tyre and Sidon, and Cypriot Greeks, the fleet went 
forth to its destination ; Sennacherib then disembarked 
his men and rendered his expedition victorious. 

Here, then, is just another instance of a non-sea- 
faring people taking to the sea not from choice, not 
from instinct, but from compulsion — because there 
was no other alternative ; and all the time employing 
seafaring mercenaries to perform a work that was 
strange to landsmen, just as in later days at different 
periods (until they themselves had grown in knowledge 
and experience), the English had to import sailors 
from Friesland in the time of Alfred, or Italians in the 
early Tudor period. The sea was still hardly more 
than a half-opened book, and few there were who dared 
to look into its pages. 




UT when we come to the Phoe- 
nicians we are in touch with a 
veritable race of seamen who to the 
south are in just the same relation 
as the Vikings are to the north. 
Whether they took to the sea be- 
cause they longed to become great 
merchants, or whether they were 
seamen first and employed their 
daring to commercial benefit needs 
no discussion. They had the true 
vocation for the sea, and it was 
inevitable that sooner or later they 
must become mighty explorers and traders. 

They had the real ship-love, which is the foundation 
of all true seamanship ; they were in sympathy with 
the life and work, and they knew how to build a ship 
well. They furnished themselves with the finest timber 
from Lebanon and surpassed the Egyptian inland 
sailors by making their craft stronger, longer, more 
seaworthy, and more able to endure the long, daring 
voyages which it delighted the Phoenicians to under- 
take. Similarly, their crews were better trained to sea- 
work, were more daring and skilful than the Nile- 
dwellers. They minded not to sail out of sight of land, 
nor lay-to for the darkness to pass away. They 
were wont to sail the open sea fearlessly direct from 


Tyre or Sidon to Cyprus, and thence to the promontories 
of Lycia and Rhodes, and so from island to island to the 
lands of the Acheans, the Daneans, and further yet to 
Hesperia. How did they do it ? What were their 
means and methods for navigation ? 

The answer is simply made. They observed the 
position of the sun by day. They would watch when 
the sun rose, when it became south, when it set, and 
then by night there was the Great Bear by which to 
steer. Their ships they designated " sea-horses," and 
the expression is significant as denoting strength, 
speed, and reliability. By their distant voyages the 
Phoenicians began to open out the world, and they 
contributed to geographical knowledge more than all 
the Egyptian dynasties put together had ever yielded 
under this category. Their earliest craft were little 
more than mere open boats which were partially decked. 
Made of fir or cedar cut into planks, which were 
fashioned into craft all too soon before the wood had 
sufficient time to become seasoned, they were caulked 
probably with bitumen, a poor substitute for vegetable 
tar. We know from existing illustrations that the 
Egyptian influence as to design was obvious in their 
ships. We know also that the thirty or more oarsmen 
sat not paddling, but rowing facing aft, and that they 
used the boomless squaresail and shortened sail by 
means of brails. 

" The first considerable improvement in shipbuilding 
which can be confidently ascribed to the Phoenicians," 
says Professor Rawlinson,i " is the construction of 
biremes. Phoenician biremes are represented in the 
Assyrian sculptures as early as the time of Senna- 
cherib (700 B.C.), and had probably then been in use 
for some considerable period. They were at first com- 
paratively short vessels, but seem to have been decked, 

^ " Phoenicia," by George Rawlinson. London, 1889. 



the rowers working in the hold. They sat at two eleva- 
tions, one above the other, and worked their oars 
through holes in the vessel's side. It was in frail barks 
of this description, not much better than open boats 
in the earlier period, that the mariners of Phoenicia, 
and especially those of Sidon, as far back as the thir- 
teenth or fourteenth century before our era, affronted 
the perils of the Mediterranean." 

At first the Phoenicians confined their voyages to the 
limits of the western end of the Mediterranean, but even 
then, notwithstanding their superiority in seamanship 
and navigation, they suffered many a disaster at sea. 
Three hundred ships were lost in a storm off Mt. Athos 
when they first attempted to invade Greece. And 
on their second attempt six hundred more ships were 
lost off Magnesia and Euboea. In addition to this, it 
must be presumed that the rocks and shoals of the 
iEgean Sea, the cruel coasts of Greece, Spain, Italy, 
Crete, and Asia Minor would account for a good many 
more losses of ships and men. In those days, too, when 
one ship on meeting another used to ask in perfect 
candour if the latter were a pirate, and received an 
equally candid answer, there was thus a further risk 
to be undergone by all who used the sea for their living. 
If the ship were in fact piratical and her commander 
considered himself the stronger of the two, his crew 
would waste little time, but promptly board the other 
ship, confiscate her cargo, bind the seamen and sell them 
off at the nearest slave market. And be it remembered 
that a Phoenician ship, inasmuch as she was usually full 
of goods recently purchased or about to be sold, was 
something worth capturing. Her cargo of rich merchan- 
dise was deserving of a keen struggle and the loss of 
a number of men. 

Nor were the Phoenicians averse from reckoning 
slaves among their commodities for barter ; indeed, 


this was a great and important feature of their trade. 
Away they went roaming the untracked seas with 
their powerful oarsmen and single squaresail and their 
hulls well filled with valuable commodities, " freighting 
their vessels," as Herodotus relates, " with the wares 
of Egypt and Assyria " for the Greek consumer. 
Year after year the ships sailed forth from Tyre to 
traverse the whole length of the Mediterranean and 
out into the Atlantic northwards to the British Isles, 
through storm and tempest, to embark the cargoes of 
tin. To be able to perform such a voyage not once but 
time after time is sufficient proof of the seamanship and 
navigation of the crews no less than of the seaworthiness 
of the Phoenician craft. Even that most wonderful cir- 
cumnavigation of Africa by the Phoenicians as given by 
Herodotus is regarded by Grote, Rawlinson, and other 
authorities as having actually occurred and being not 
a mere figment of imagination. The story may be 
briefly summed up thus. Neco, King of Egypt, was 
anxious to have a means of connecting the Red Sea 
and Mediterranean by water, but had failed in his 
efforts to make a canal between the Nile and the Gulf 
of Suez, so he resolved that the circumnavigation of 
Africa should be attempted. For this he needed the 
world's finest seamen and navigators with the best 
ocean-going ships available. Accordingly he chose the 
Phoenicians, who, departing from a Red Sea port, 
coasted round Africa, and after nearly three years 
arrived safely back in Egypt. The obvious question 
which the reader will ask is how could such craft possibly 
carry enough food for three years. The answer is that 
they did not even attempt such a feat. Instead, they 
used to make some harbour after part of their voyage 
was accomplished, land, sow their grain, wait till 
harvest-time, and then sail off with their food on board 
all ready for a further instalment of the journey. And 



there is really nothing too wonderful in this long voyage 
when we remember that in Africa what is to-day called 
Indian corn can be reaped six weeks after being sown ; 
and that three years is not such an excessively long 
time for a well-manned craft fitted with mast and 
squaresail to coast from headland to headland, across 
all the bays and bights of the African continent. A 
great achievement it certainly was, not to be attempted 
(unless history is woefully silent) again until towards 
the close of the fifteenth century, when Vasco da Gama 
doubled the Cape of Good Hope. 

They had for years been wont in the Mediterranean 
to make voyages by night. They had steered their 
course by aid of the Polar star. " They undoubtedly," 
remarks Professor Rawlinson, " from an ancient date 
made themselves charts of the seas which they fre- 
quented, calculated distances, and laid down the relative 
position of place to place. Strabo says that the Si- 
donians especially cultivated the arts of astronomy and 
arithmetic as being necessary for reckoning a ship's 
course, and particularly needed in sailing by night." 
Later on we shall again call attention to the great 
surprise which confronted the dwellers by the Mediter- 
ranean when they voyaged into other seas. The 
Phoenicians, so long as they cruised only in the former, 
had no tide to contend with ; but when they set forth 
into the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, and 
the English Channel, they found a factor which, 
hitherto, they had not been compelled to encounter. But 
by such a seafaring race it was not long before even 
this new consideration was dealt with and utilised in 
the proper manner. " They noted," says Rawlinson, 
" the occurrence of spring and neap tides, and were 
aware of the connection with the position of the sun 
and moon relatively to the earth, but they made the 
mistake of supposing that the spring tides were highest 


at the summer solstice, whereas they are really highest 
in December." 

If we omit the Egyptians from our category as being 
almost exclusively inland navigators, we must regard 
these Phoenicians as historically the first great seamen 
of the world, and it is nothing short of remarkable that 
in an age such as theirs, when there were so few acces- 
sories to encourage and develop the marine instinct, they 
should have essayed so much and succeeded so mag- 
nificently in their projects. Remember, too, that they 
had something of the instinct of the engineer as well 
as of the seaman in their nature. It was the Phoenicians 
whom Xerxes employed in 485 B.C. for the purpose of 
cutting a ship canal through the isthmus which joins 
Mt. Athos to the mainland. It was they, also, who 
constructed a double bridge of boats across the Helles- 
pont to form the basis of a solid causeway, and in each 
of these undertakings they covered themselves with 

They were no amateurs, no mere experimenters. It is 
certain that, in their own time, they were, even with their 
primitive ships, very far from primitive in their ideas of 
seamanship. Read the following exceedingly interest- 
ing account of one who went aboard a Phoenician vessel 
and has left to posterity his impressions of his visit. 
The descriptive narrative reads so true and seems so 
perfectly spontaneous and natural that we almost for- 
get the many centuries which have elapsed since it was 
set down. Here, then, you have the record of no less 
a person than Xenophon, a man who was far too dis- 
criminating to allow any flow of careless words, far 
too observant, also, to allow anything worth noting 
to escape his watchful eye. In " The Economist " he 
makes one of his characters refer to a Phoenician 
trireme, and he is speaking of that nation's ships when 
the Phoenicians were under the Persian system : — 



"Or^ picture a trireme, crammed choke-ful of 
mariners ; for what reason is she so terror-striking an 
object to her enemies, and a sight so gladsome to the 
eyes of friends ? Is it not that the gallant ship sails 
so swiftly ? And why is it that, for all their crowding, 
the ship's company cause each other no distress ? 
Simply that there, as you see them, they sit in 
order ; in order bend to the oar ; in order recover 
the stroke ; in order step on board ; in order dis- 

And again : — 

" I must tell you, Socrates, what strikes me as the 
finest and most accurate arrangement of goods and 
furniture it was ever my fortune to set eyes on, when 
I went as a sightseer on board the great Phoenician 
merchantman and beheld an endless quantity of goods 
and gear of all sorts, all separately packed and stowed 
away within the smallest compass. I need scarce re- 
mind you (he said, continuing his narrative) what a 
vast amount of wooden spars and cables a ship depends 
on in order to get to moorings ; or again, in putting 
out to sea : you know the host of sails and cordage, 
rigging as they call it, she requires for sailing ; the 
quantity of engines and machinery of all sorts she is 
armed with in case she should encounter any hostile 
craft ; the infinitude of arms she carries, with her crew 
of fighting men aboard. Then all the vessels and 
utensils, such as people use at home on land, required 
for the different messes, form a portion of the freight ; 
and besides all this, the hold is heavy laden with a mass 
of merchandise, the cargo proper, which the master 
carries with him for the sake of traffic. Well, all these 
different things that I have named lay packed there in 
a space but little larger than a fair-sized dining-room. 

^ I have availed myself of Mr. H. G. Dakyns' excellent translation of " The 
Works of Xenophon," Vol. Ill, Part I. Loudon, 1897. 



The several sorts, moreover, as I noticed, lay so well 
arranged, there could be no entanglement of one with 
other, nor were searchers needed ; and if all were 
snugly stowed, all were alike get-at-able, much to the 
avoidance of delay if anything were wanted on the in- 
stant. Then the pilot's mate — the look-out man at the 
prow, to give him his proper title — was, I found, so 
well acquainted with the place for everything that, 
even off the ship, he could tell you where each set of 
things was laid and how many there were of each, just 
as well as anyone who knows his alphabet could tell 
you how many letters there are in Socrates, and the 
order in which they stand. I saw this same man 
(continued Ischomachus) examining at leisure every- 
thing which could possibly be needful for the service 
of the ship. His inspection caused me such surprise, I 
asked him what he was doing, whereupon he answered, 
' I am looking to see, stranger, in case anything should 
happen, how everything is arranged in the ship, and 
whether anything is wanting or not lying handy and 
shipshape. There is no time left, you know, when 
God makes a tempest in the great deep, to set about 
searching for what' you want or to be giving out 
anything which is not snug and shipshape in its 
place.' " 

There was something, then, so excellent in arrange- 
ment in these Phoenician ships which seemed to Xeno- 
phon so superior to the vessels of his own countrymen ; 
and the sailor-like neatness and systematic order were 
to him so striking that even to his disciplined and 
orderly mind they were most remarkable. It requires 
but little imagination to picture from this scant refer- 
ence the ship's company doing everything according 
to drill. The seaman-like care for the running gear 
on the part of the ship's husband ready for any emer- 
gency is, indeed, highly suggestive. 



The importance of the Phoenicians is considerable, 
not merely for their own sake, but because of their 
permanent influence on the Greeks. But the latter 
were rather fighters than explorers as compared with 
the Phoenicians. At a very early date there was the 
sea communication between the Mediterranean and 
the North, and we may date this certainly as far back 
as the year 2000 B.C., suggests Dr. Nansen, himself an ex- 
plorer and student of the early voyagers. The only 
places, excluding China, whence tin-ore was known to 
be procurable in ancient times, he asserts, were North- 
West Spain, Cornwall, and probably Brittany. It is 
significant that in the oldest pyramid-graves of Egypt 
tin is found, and the inference is that the inhabitants of 
the Mediterranean from at least this epoch voyaged 
north to fetch this commodity from Western Europe. 
And with the tin came also supplies of amber as well. 
Archaeological finds, affirms the same authority, prove 
that as far back as the Scandinavian Bronze Age, or 
prior to this, there must have been some sort of com- 
munication between the Mediterranean and northern 
lands. One of the earliest trade routes connecting 
the Mediterranean and the Baltic was from the Black 
Sea up the Dneiper, then along its tributary the Bug 
to the Vistula, and down the latter to the coast. By 
their sea-voyages to distant lands the Phoenicians con- 
tributed for the first time a great deal of geographical 
knowledge of the world, and in many ways influenced 
Greek geography. Up till then the learned men who 
applied themselves to such subjects had but the vaguest 
idea of the North. But just as in subsequent centuries 
the Spanish kept their explored regions to themselves 
and continued most cautious lest other nationalities 
should learn their sources of wealth, so the Phoenicians 
did their best to keep their trade routes secret lest their 
rivals, the Greeks, should step in and enrich them- 


selves. In the absence, therefore, of anything suffi- 
ciently definite, there was for a long period a good deal 
of wild and inaccurate speculation. 

But it is when we come to Pytheas of Massilia that 
we reach the border-line which separates fact from fable. 
This eminent astronomer and geographer of Marseilles 
brought together a knowledge of northern countries 
which was based not on premonition, not on specula- 
tion, not on hearsay, but on actual experience. So 
original, so accurate, and so far-reaching was his work, 
that for the next fifteen hundred years he dominated 
all geographical knowledge. We can fix his time if we 
remember that he flourished probably about the year 
330 B.C. He was the first person in history to introduce 
astronomical measurements for ascertaining the geo- 
graphical situation of a place, and thus became the 
founder of the science of navigation — the science which 
has enabled seas to be crossed in safety and continents 
to be discovered; which has given to the ship of all 
species a freedom to employ her speed without sacrific- 
ing safety. Indirectly arising from these may be traced 
the development and civilising and peopling of the world 
which have so entirely modified history. 

By means of a great gnomon, Pytheas determined 
" with surprising accuracy " the latitude of Marseilles, 
and in relation to this laid down the latitude of more 
northerly places. He observed that the Pole of the 
heavens did not coincide, as the earlier astronomer 
Eudoxus had supposed, with any star. What Pytheas 
did find was that it made an almost regular rectangle 
with three stars lying near it. (At that time the Pole 
was some distance from the present Pole-star.) And 
since Pytheas steered by the stars, the Pole of the 
heavens was obviously of the highest importance to 
him. A gnomon, it may be explained, was the pillar of 
projection which cast the shadow on the various Greek 



forms of dial. In the case under discussion the gnomon 
was a vertical column raised on a plane. 

As to the species of ship in which Pytheas sailed we 
can but speculate. Most probably it was somewhat 
similar to the Phoenician type, with oarsmen and one 
mast with squaresail. But what is known is that he 
sailed out through the Pillars of Hercules. At that 
date Cape St. Vincent — then known as the Sacred 
Promontory — was the furthest of the world's limit in 
the minds of the Greeks. He was the first to sail along 
the coasts of Northern Gaul and Germany. He was 
the discoverer of at least most of Great Britain, the 
Shetlands, and Norway as far as the Arctic Circle. And 
as he voyaged he studied the phenomena of the sea — 
collected invaluable data as to tides and their origin. 
Himself a Greek and unaccustomed to tidal movements, 
he was the first of his race to connect this systematic 
flowing and ebbing of the sea with the moon. Dr. 
Nansen, himself the greatest explorer of our times, has 
not hesitated to describe Pytheas as " one of the most 
capable and undaunted explorers the world has ever 
seen." But as so often happens in the case of a pioneer, 
Pytheas was ahead of his time, and the description 
which he brought back of his travels, of the strange 
lands and unheard-of phenomena, was not believed by 
his contemporaries. There followed, therefore, a gulf 
of incredulity for about three hundred years till we 
come to the time of Julius Caesar, and from that point 
we shall, in due course, continue to trace the develop- 
ment of navigational science. 




UT before we proceed further, it is 
essential that we look carefully 
into the building, administration, 
and handling of those fleets of 
vessels which made history as they 
scudded across the blue waters of 
the south of Europe. We want to 
know, also, something of the com- 
position of their crews, their officers, 
and the divisions of control, of the 
tactics employed in naval warfare, 
of the limitations in manoeuvring, 
the methods of working the oars, of rigging the ships, 
of steering, and so on. 

Greece had accepted the ship as it had evolved in the 
hands of the Phoenicians with certain modifications. 
We are no longer anxious to trace that development, 
but rather to see, in the first place, how the Greeks 
availed themselves of their inheritance. In the build- 
ing of their ships the Greeks gave neither sternpost 
nor stempost. The timbers of the ships were held to- 
gether by means of wooden pegs (or treenails, as we 
should call them), and also by metal nails, bronze 
being chosen in preference to iron nails for the most 
obvious of reasons. But in those days, as any student 
of Greek history is aware, not infrequently craft had to 
be transported. Therefore the fastenings were so 



placed as to allow of the ship being divided into sections 
for carrying across land to some distant water. The 
outer framework of the hull was found in the keel and 
ribs. The ship's planking, which varied from the some- 
what ample 2J inches to 5J inches thick, was fastened 
through the ribs to the beams. 

The warships had most necessarily to be built of the 
utmost strength to sustain the terrible shocks in 
ramming. To prevent the damage incurred being 
disastrous, cables — called hypozomata — undergirded 
the ship. The Greek word signifies the diaphragm or 
midriff in anatomy, but in the plural it is used to designate ■ 
the braces which were passed either underneath or 
horizontally around the ship's hull. The reader may 
remember that in " Sailing Ships and their Story " I 
called attention to the Egyptian ships, which used to 
be strengthened by stretching similar cables not girth- 
wise, but direct from stem to stern across the deck over 
wooden forks amidships. Primarily, then, these braces 
on the Greek ships were to counteract the effects of 
ramming ; incidentally they kept the ship's hull from 
" working " when she pounded in heavy seas. 

And then when the shipwright had finished his con- 
struction of the ship she was coloured with a composi- 
tion consisting of paint and wax, the latter serving to 
give these speedy ships the minimum of skin-friction. 
The colours chosen were purple, two whites, violet, 
yellow, and blue. Green, for the sake of invisibility, was 
used for scouts and pirates. The primitive Grecian 
ships had only patches of colour at the bows, the rest 
of the hull being covered black with tar. Occasionally 
neither wax nor tar was employed, but the hull was 
sheathed with lead outside the planking, layers of 
tarred sailcloth being placed in between the two 
materials. They made their sails either of linen, or, 
sometimes, of papyrus fibre or flax, and there were 


two kinds of sailcloth which the Athenian Navy 
utilised. The bolt-ropes of the sails were of hide, the 
skins of the hyena and seal being especially employed. 
The ropes used for the different purposes of the ship 
were of two kinds. Some were of strips of hide ; more 
frequently they were from the fibre of papyrus or from 
flax or hemp. The sails were often coloured — black 
for mourning, purple or vermilion for an admiral or 
monarch. Topsails were sometimes coloured, the lower 
sail remaining uncoloured. The green-hulled scouts 
also had their sails and ropes dyed to match the colour 
of the Mediterranean. And sometimes the interesting 
sight would be seen of sails with inscriptions and 
devices woven in golden thread into the fabric. 

There is a Greek word askos, which signifies a leathern 
bag or wine-skin, from which the word askoma is derived. 
The latter was the word given to a leathern bag which 
was attached to the oar so as to prevent the water from 
penetrating through into the ship, and yet allowed, with 
only slight friction, the oar to be brought backward 
and forward. There is something slightly similar 
to-day in the leather flap which is found on the Bristol 
Channel pilot cutters, covering the discharge from the 
watertight cockpits, the motion of the ship through the 
water causing the flap to be pressed tightly against the 
hull, and thus preventing any water from entering. But 
in the instance of the Grecian craft the flap was much 
bigger. There were no rowlocks, but the oar was 
fastened by a leathern loop to a thole-pin against 
which the rower pulled his oar. 

Bear in mind that, whereas the Greek merchant- 
ship mostly relied on sails, the warship was essentially 
oar-propelled. And because she must needs carry a 
large number of rowers they needed supervision. 
Hence a gangway was placed on either side of the 
ship, both for that purpose and also for the placing of 



the fighting men. Illustrations on ancient Greek vases 
clearly show that some warships were fitted with a 
hurricane-deck above, and this extended down the 
length of the ship, but not from one side to the other. 
This hurricane- deck, if we are to give any credence to 
contemporary illustrations, was a fairly light affair 
raised on vertical supports of sufficient strength. In 
addition to the human ballast of the oarsmen, gravel, 
sand, and stone were used for trimming the ship. For 
instance, it might be necessary to get the bows deeper 
into the water so that the ram came into operation ; 
or, after ramming and receiving damage, it might be 
found advisable to trim the ship by the stern so as to 
get the bows well out of water. To what extent these 
craft leaked one cannot say ; but one can reasonably 
suppose that as they were built of unseasoned wood, 
as the shocks from ramming were very injurious, and as 
they had to suffer a good deal of wear and tear through 
frequent beaching, they made a fair amount of water. 
At any rate, it is certain that they provided against 
this in arranging an Archimedean screw, worked by a 
treadmill, or buckets for getting rid of the bilge-water. 
It is probable, also, that the drinking-water in cisterns 
or skins would be deposited as low in the hull as possible. 

The Greeks, in addition to their technical ability, had 
inherited a similar sea-instinct to that of the Phoeni- 
cians, and this keenness is by no means absent from 
Greek literature. What, for instance, could be more 
enthusiastic than the following exquisitely poetic 
extract from Antipater of Sidon : — 

" Now is the season for a ship to run through the 
gurgling water, and no longer does the sea gloom, 
fretted with gusty squalls ; and now the swallow plasters 
her globed houses under the rafters, and the soft 
leafage laughs in the meadows. Therefore wind up 
your soaked cables, O sailors, and weigh your sunken 


anchors from the harbours, and stretch the forestays 
to carry your well-woven sails. This I, the son of 
Bromius, bid you, Priapus of the anchorage." ^ 

It is an exhortation, at the return of spring, to refit 
the ships which had been laid up since the winter, 
tethered to the " soaked cables." It is an invitation to 
get the ships properly afloat, to step the masts and set 
up the forestay in all readiness for getting under way 
for the sailing season. 

Or again, listen to Leonidas of Tarentum in a similar 

" Now is the season of sailing," he says, " for already 
the chattering swallow is come and the pleasant west 
wind ; the meadows flower, and the sea, tossed up 
with waves and rough blasts, has sunk to silence. 
Weigh thine anchors and unloose thine hawsers, O 
mariner, and sail with all thy canvas set : this I, 
Priapus of the harbour, bid thee, O man, that thou 
mayest sail forth to all thy trafficking." ^ 

"Mine be a mattress on the poop," sings ^ Antiphilus 
with no less ecstasy of the life on board a Grecian ship, 
" mine be a mattress on the poop, and the awnings 
over it sounding with the blows of the spray, and the 
fire forcing its way out of the hearth-stones, and a pot 
upon them with empty turmoil of bubbles ; and let me 
see the boy dressing the meat, and my table be a ship's 
plank covered with a cloth; and a game of pitch-and- 
toss, and the boatswain's whistle : the other day I had 
such fortune, for I love common life." 

Three thousand years, indeed, before the birth of 
our Lord there were ships sailing the ^gean Sea, but 
it was only the progress of time and experience which 
made these craft and their crews' ability anything more 
than primitive. As you look through the poems of 

^ Given in " Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology," by J. W. Mackail. 
London, 1911. ^ Ibid. ' Ibid. 

D 33 


Homer you find various significant references to craft, 
and he speaks of the " red-cheeked " ships, referring to 
the vermihon-coloured bows, where a face was fre- 
quently painted, red being the conventional colour in 

" Mine be a mattress on the poop. 

those early times for flesh. The same idea is still seen 
in the Chinese junks and the Portuguese fishing craft. 

The earliest Grecian ships were crescent-shaped, and 
the stern so resembled the horn of a cow that it was 
called the korumha or point. There is a reference in 


the Iliad to the high-pointed sterns of ships. From 
Homer, too, we know that the timber employed in 
shipbuilding consisted of oak, pine, fir, alder, poplar, 
and white poplar ; that the masts and oars were of fir, 
that the woodwork of the hull was erected on ship- 
builders' stocks. The word used for the latter was 
druochoi — meaning the props on which the keel (tropis) 
was laid. The hull was secured by treenails and dowel- 
joints, the planking being laid over the ribs. Further, 
we know also that the ship of Homer had either twenty 
or fifty oarsmen. 

The pre-Homeric Greeks did not use thole-pins, but 
the oars were fastened to the gunwale by means of 
leathered hoops. It was not till a later date that the 
pins already mentioned came into use. It is notice- 
able, too, that Homer uses the word kleides in referring 
to the thwarts on which the rowers sat. For the 
singular of this word means a hook or clasp, and is 
used in this sense for the thwart or rowing bench which 
locked the sides of the ship together. Zuga is also 
used in the Odyssey to signify the same thing. In 
attempting to piece together these fragmentary details 
of the Homeric ship, we must bear in mind that below 
the zuga or rowing thwarts the hold was undecked, but 
that fore and aft there ran the half-decks — ikria, Homer 
calls them. The forecastle formed at once a cabin and a 
look-out post, and helped to keep the forward end 
protected when butting into a sea. Right aft, of 
course, sat the helmsman, or kubernetes, and it is sup- 
posed that a bench here stretched across the poop on 
which, as he sat on deck, he could rest his feet and 
work the oieion or handle of the rudder. A Greek ship 
usually had two pedalia or steering oars, one being 
placed on either quarter. These were joined together 
across the ship by means of cross-bars (zeuglai), to 
which the tiller or handle was attached. Finally, over 



the poop rose the tail-piece which is so noticeable in 
some of the vase-illustrations of Grecian ships, and had 
its counterpart in the lotus-bud seen in the ships of the 

Homer speaks of " stepping the mast " (histos), and 
apparently the step was affixed as low as possible, its 
heel being supported by a prop and capable of being 
easily lowered before the galley went into battle under 
oar-propulsion alone. The forestays, which just now 
we saw Antipater urging the sailors to stretch, were 
two in number. The Homeric word for these is pro- 
ionoiy though the word was used by Euripides in speak- 
ing of the braces which controlled the yards. On the 
yard which stretched at right angles across the mast 
both merchantmen and warships set the squaresail, 
and the use by Homer of the word meruomai for draw- 
ing up or furling sails is sufficiently indicative that the 
ancient Greek sailors stowed sail not by lowering it 
on deck as in a modern fore-and-after, but after the 
fashion of a modern full-rigged ship. 

We find mention also of the halyards — one on each 
side of the mast is shown in the Greek vase designs — 
which supported the yard to the top of the mast, the 
sail being reefed by means of brailing lines. The same 
word that we have just mentioned, for " drawing up " or 
"furling" sails, was also employed for drawing up the 
cables. And here again there is a further connection. 
The plural kaloi is used to mean (1) cables, (2) reefing 
ropes (i.e. brails), or even reefs as opposed to the sheets 
(podes) and braces (huperai). Euripides employs the 
expression kalos exienai, meaning to " let out the 
reefs." And (3) kaloi also means not merely generally 
a rope, but also a sounding line, which again is evidence 
that these ancient seamen found the depth of water as 
the modern sailor feels his way through shoal seas. 
The word just given for sheets was applied to the lower 


corners of the sail — clews as we nowadays call them — • 
and thus naturally the ropes attached to the foot (or 
lowest part) were also called podes. The braces were 
called huperai, obviously because they were in fact the 
upper ropes. 

As we have just seen from Antipater and Leonidas, 
the mariner used cables and hawsers for securing his 
ship, these being sent out from both bow and stern. 
Instead of anchors the early Greeks used heavy stones 
for the bow cables, whilst other hawsers were run out 
from the stern to the shore and hitched on to a big 
boulder or rock. If the former, then there was a hole 
therein. An endless rope was rove through this per- 
forated stone, so that thus the ship could be hauled 
ashore for disembarking, or when wishing to go 
aboard again, sufficient slack of course having been 
left at the bow cables. A long pole was used for shov- 
ing off, while a ladder, which is seen more than once in 
Greek vase illustrations, was carried at the stern for 
convenience in descending to the land from the high- 
pointed sterns. 

There were two sailing seasons. The first was after 
the rising of the Pleiads, in spring; the second was 
between midsummer and autumn. Wlien, after the 
setting of the Pleiads, the ship was hauled up into 
winter quarters on land, she was supported by props 
to keep her upright, and then a stone fence was put 
round her. This afforded her protection against wind 
and weather. The cheimaros, or plug, was then taken 
out from the bottom so as to let out all the bilge-water. 
The ship's gear, the sails, steering oars, and tiller were 
then stored at home till the time came once more for 
the sailors to " stretch " their forestays. 

About the year 700 B.C. the Greek warships were 
manned by fifty rowers ; hence these craft were called 
pentekontoroi. With the existence of a forecastle and a 



raised horned poop, one can understand perfectly well 
how easy was the transition which caused an upper 
deck to be added about this century. This gave to the 
ship greater power, because it allowed two banks of 
oarsmen, one on each deck. As far as possible these 
rowers were covered in to avoid the attacks of the 
enemy. Such shallow-draught vessels as the war- 
galleys could not possibly be good as sailing craft. 
They must be looked upon as essentially rowing vessels 
which occasionally set canvas when cruising and a 
fair wind was blowing. 

The pentekontoroi were single-banked, and for a long 
time the Greek fleets consisted solely of this type. 
But then came the additional deck just spoken of 
which gave two banks, and subsequently the trireme 
succeeded the bireme. The trireme was very popular 
till after the close of the Peloponnesian War, when the 
quadrireme was introduced from Carthage. Dr. Oskar 
Seyffert ^ asserts that before the close of the fourth 
century B.C. quinquiremes and even six-banked craft, 
and (later still) even sixteen-banked vessels are sup- 
posed by some writers to have been in vogue. But as 
to the latter this seems highly improbable. 

And before we proceed any further, let us endeavour 
to get a clear idea as to the nature of a trireme. This 
species of ship had been invented by those great sea- 
men who hailed from the port of Sidon. About the 
year 700 B.C. this type was adopted by the Greeks, and 
then began to supersede all other existing types of war- 
vessels. Themistocles in 483 B.C. inaugurated the ex- 
cellent practice of maintaining a large permanent 
navy. As a commencement he built a hundred triremes, 
and these were used at the battle of Salami s. In the 
Greek word trieres there is nothing to signify that it. 
was necessarily three-banked, and it is well to realise 

^ "A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities." London, 1902. 


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this fact from the start. The word just means " triple- 
arranged," neither more nor less. It is when we come 
to the question as to the details of this triple arrange- 
ment that we find a divergence of theory. It will, 
therefore, be best if we state first the prevailing theory 
of the trireme's arrangement, and then pass on to give 
what is the more modern and the more plausible inter- 

The most general idea, then, is that the trireme was 
fitted with three tiers of oarsmen. In this case the 
thalamitai were those who sat and worked on the 
lowest tier ; the zugitai, those who sat on the beams ; 
whilst the thranitai were the men who sat on the highest 
tier. (Homer refers to the seven-foot bench, or threnus, 
which was the seat of the helmsman or the rowers). 
Each oarsman, it is thought, sat below and slightly to 
the rear of the oarsman above him, so that these three 
sections of men formed an oblique line. This economised 
space and facilitated their movements. A variation of 
this same theory suggests that the thalamitai sat close 
to the vessel's side, the zugitai who were higher up 
being distant from the side the breadth of one thwart, 
whilst the thranitai, higher still, were the breadth of 
two thwarts away. The oar of each rower would pass 
over the head of the rower below. 

But a better theory of the arrangement of the trireme 
may be presented as follows, and it has the advantage of 
satisfying all the evidence found in ancient literature 
and pictorial representation. Banish, then, from your 
mind all thought of three superimposed tiers, and 
instead consider a galley so arranged that the rowers 
work side by side. Each of the triple set of oarsmen 
sits pulling his own separate oar. But all three oars 
emerge through one porthole. In front of each bench 
was a stretcher, and the rower stood up grasping his 
oar and pulled back, letting the full weight of his bodv 



fall on to the stroke till at its end he found himself 
sitting on the bench. On either side of him, at the 
same bench, was another rower doing the same exertion. 
In each porthole there would thus be three thole-pins 
to fit three oars. In this case, then, the thalamites 
would be he who rowed nearest the porthole. Because 
he worked the shortest oar and thus had the least 
exertion he received the least pay. Next to him sat 
the zugites, and next to the latter came the thranites, who 
worked the longest oar, and therefore did the most work, 
having to stand on a stool (tliranos) in order to get 
greater exertion on to his oar at the beginning of the 
stroke. It is supposed that the rowers' benches were 
not all in the same plane, but that the second would 
be higher than the first, and the third higher than the 

The number of oars in an ancient trireme was as 
many as 170. These oars were necessarily very long, 
and time was kept sometimes by the music of a flute, 
or by the stroke set by the keleustes, who was on board 
for that purpose. This he did either with a hammer of 
some sort, or his voice. And there is at least one 
illustration showing such a man using a hammer in an 
oar-propelled boat for that purpose.^ The inscriptions 
which were unearthed some years ago, containing 
the inventories of the Athenian dockyards, belonging 
to the years between 373 B.C. and 323 B.C., have been 
collected and published. And it is from them that we 
obtain such valuable information as the number of 
oarsmen which the biremes carried. This number was 
usually 200, and was disposed in the ship as follows : 
There were 54 thalamitai, 54 zugitai, 62 thranitai, and 
30 perineo. The exact meaning of the latter word is 
supercargoes or passengers, but they were carried 
perhaps as spare oarsmen in case any became disabled. 

1 See Fig. 24 of '' Sailing Ships and their Story." 



All oars were worked together against the tholes, 
and as we know from the old depictions there was a 
space left both at bow and stern beyond the oarsmen, 
this space being called the parexeiresia. The number 
of oarsmen just mentioned may seem very large, but 
having regard to the speed required for manoeuvring 
and for ramming effectively it is not excessive. But 
when a war-vessel was employed on transport duty so 
great a host of men was not essential. In the case of a 
vessel engaged, for instance, in carrying horses in her 
hold only sixty oarsmen were needed. Had you found 
yourself alongside one of the war-galleys you would 
have been struck by its length and leanness more than 
by anything else. As you passed round by the bows 
you would have observed the two great eyes, one on 
either side of the hull, through which in all probability 
the hawsers passed. Behind these two eyes were very 
substantial catheads which projected like great ears 
from the ship, and were used primarily for slinging the 
anchors just as in the old-fashioned sailing ships of 
Nelson and after; but, secondly, for convenience when 
ramming. Thus, when the terrible shock came, the cat- 
heads would protect the oars of the ship from damage 
and allow the utmost speed to be maintained till the 
last minute — a factor that was naturally of the highest 
importance. But also they were sometimes strengthened 
with supports so that they might catch in the topsides 
of the enemy and do him considerable damage. 

As to the ram, which was the pivot of all the ancient 
naval tactics, there was one projecting spur below, but 
above it was another ram to catch the attacked ship at a 
second place. These rams were made of bronze and 
had three teeth ; or if not made of bronze they were of 
wood sheathed with that metal. The stempost in these 
craft rose high in the air, and each ship had a distin- 
guishing sign consisting either of a figurehead or some 



relief or painting at the bows. Of the two kinds of 
sails which these vessels carried, the larger was put 
ashore prior to battle, and only the smaller one re- 
tained. And as there were two sizes of sails, so there 
were two sizes of masts to correspond. Besides the 
halyards, brailing ropes, cables, braces, sheets, and 
forestay already alluded to, there were also backstays 
to support the masts. This was up to about the year 

Terra-cotta Vase in the form of a Trireme's Prow. 
Showing eye and both upper and lowei* ram, each with triple teeth. 

400 B.C., but, at any rate, by 330 B.C. triremes had 
simply mast, yard, sail, ropes, and the loops of brailing 
ropes, a simplified form of the earlier brails. 

But additional to the triremes which had been first 
built at Corinth, were the quadriremes which first 
appeared in the year 398 B.C. As to their nature, their 
complement, and other details we know nothing. But 
it is legitimate to suppose that if the triremes rowed 
three men to a bench these were manned by four men 


on each bench rowing four oars in a similar manner. 
In the same year that first saw the quadriremes were 
built also quinquiremes. As to their size and comple- 
ment we know just this much — that at the battle of 
Ecnomus the Roman and Carthaginian quinquiremes 
carried about 300 rowers and 120 combatants each. 
Probably, like the medieval quinquiremes, they rowed 
five men to each oar; or, alternatively, the five men 
each pulled an oar through the same porthole. 

Some of the later developments of the marine instinct 
in the Mediterranean and adjacent seas became 
grotesque. Personal pride and a keen sense of rivalry 
caused the King of Sicily and his brother sovereigns of 
Macedonia, Asia, and Alexandria during the fourth 
and third centuries B.C. to construct men-of-war on 
a huge scale. A temple in Cyprus commemorates the 
builder of a twenty- and a thirty-fold vessel. But there 
was even a forty-fold vessel constructed by Ptolemy 
Philopator about the year 220 B.C., which was the size of 
one of our big liners of to-day. Two hundred and eighty 
cubits she measured in length, thirty-eight she was wide. 
Her stem rose 48 cubits above the water with only a 
4-cubit draught, while the stern-ornament was 53 
cubits high in the air. Fitted with a double prow 
which had seven rams, a double stern with four steering 
paddles 30 cubits each in length, the largest of her oars 
measured 38 cubits in length, but they were nicely 
balanced by weighting them with an equipoise of lead 
near the handles. Twelve strong cables 600 cubits 
long girded her together, and her complement was far 
greater than any vessel of modern times, four thousand 
oarsmen, 400 sailors, 2850 soldiers, to say nothing 
of the retinue of servants and the stores which she 
carried besides. There was also an enormous Nile 
barge 280 cubits long, built by Sesostris, but such craft 
as the fore-mentioned must be looked upon less as an 



opportunity for practising the seaman's art than as a 
vulgar display of wealth. 

The true war- vessel was made in the proportions of 
length seven or eight times her width, and drew about 
3 feet of water. Light, shallow, and fiat, not particularly 
seaworthy, they were utterly different from the round, 
heavy, strong, decked merchantman. The war-galley's 
triple-spiked ram had come into use as far back as 556 
B.C. The galley was most certainly fast and built of fir 
with a keel of oak. Competent modern authorities agree 

Portions of Early Mediterranean Anchor in Lead found 

OFF THE Coast of Cyrene. 

(In the British Museum.) 

in estimating the speed of the galley and merchantman in 
those days as about 7J to 4 (or 5) knots respectively. 

When stone was discarded and metal anchors began 
to be adopted about the year 600 B.C., they were made 
first of iron. Some idea of the weight of the holding 
tackle in vogue may be gathered from the statement 
that an anchor weighing less than 56 lbs. was used in 
the Athenian navy. (For the sake of comparison, it 
may be added that this is about the weight of a modern 
10-ton yacht's bower anchor.) Stone and lead were 
affixed to these anchors by iron clamps near the bottom 
of the shank. The ships of the Athenian navy carried 


each a couple of anchors, while large merchant ships 
carried several, as we know from the voyages of St. 
Paul. Cork floats were employed for buoying the 
anchors, as to-day, and also served the purpose of 
lifebuoys. Usually the ships rode to rope cables, but 
sometimes to chain ones. It can readily be imagined 
that when these light ships pitched fore and aft into a 
sea the two large steering oars at the high stern would 
be frequently out of the water, and thus quite easily the 
vessel would not be under command. In such instances 
another pair was placed at the bows. Like the modern 
Arabs, the early seamen of the Mediterranean had to 
go aloft as best they could by climbing the sail, the 
mast, or hanging their weight on any rope they could 

" Curiously," says Mr. Torr in his invaluable little 
book " Ancient Ships," to which I am considerably 
indebted, " the practice was always to brail up half 
the sail when the ship was put on either tack, the other 
half being thereby transformed into a triangle with 
base extending from the middle of the yard to the 
leeward end of it, and apex terminating in the sheet 
below." Apparently, when the yard was braced 
round the sail was furled on the arm that came aft, but 
left unfurled on the arm that went forward. 

It is quite certain that the ancient Mediterranean 
seamen did perform voyages at night when they had 
attained to experience and confidence, and there is at 
least one plain reference in Greek literature to a light- 
house, as in the following passage : " No longer dread- 
ing the rayless night-mist, sail towards me confidently, 
O seafarers ; for all wanderers I light my far-shining 
torch, memorial of the labours of the Asclepiadse."^ 

Some of the early vase paintings show the war- 
galley not with a ram as developed subsequently, but a 

^ Given on page 212 of Mackail^ ut supra. 



pig's snout, and the korumha or poop extremity, shaped 
like a cow's horn, could be lopped off by the victor and 
retained as a trophy. And in looking at these ancient 
galleys one must not forget that they were built not 
as the English shipbuilders of, say, the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries laid down ships. Galleys were 
built far more quickly and easily — whole fleets of them 
— when the first rumour of war arrived. Capable as 
they were of being put together with greater dispatch, 
launched with far greater ease, and needing many tons 
less material than one of the famous wooden walls 
which in later years were to sail the seas, it required 
not quite so much enterprise if the ancients desired 
ships, and consequently there was no small induce- 
ment for men to become expert in the things of the sea. 
How important was the shipbuilding industry regarded 
by the Mediterraneans may be seen from the careful 
arrangements made a long time ahead for obtaining 
adequate supplies of timber. About the year 380 B.C. 
a treaty was made between Amyntas HI and the 
Chalkidians regulating the export and import of ship- 
building materials ; for it must not be forgotten that 
southern Makedon, the Chalkidic peninsula, and Am- 
phipolis were the chief sources whence Athens derived 
its xula naupegesima — ship-timber — for her dockyards. 
This record is found in a marble which was discovered 
at Olynthos, and is now at Vienna. 

At Corinth and other places there were all the acces- 
sories of a shipbuilding yard on a big scale, including 
proper slips, and even ship -tram waj^s running down to 
the sea for hauling ships ashore. At such yards long, 
narrow rowing galleys and round, broad sailing merchant 
ships were put together with all the skill which the 
Greeks possessed. Here hulls were built out of pine, 
cedar, and cypress, while the interiors were constructed 
of pine, lime, plane, elm, ash, acacia, or mulberry. Here 


we could have watched the masts and yards being 
fashioned out of fir or pine, whilst others were busy 
caulking seams with tow, or heating the wax and tar 
over the cauldrons. 

But the picture of the ancient Greek shipbuilding 
activity is far from complete owing to the compara- 
tively scant material which exists. In 1834, when 
the workmen were digging the foundations for a build- 
ing at the Pirseus, they came upon a Roman or Byzan- 
tine drain, and discovered it to be lined with slabs of 
marble which were covered with inscriptions. These 
were some of the inventories of the Athenian dockyards 
of the fourth century B.C., and will be found published 
in August Bockh's " Corpus Inscriptionum Atticarum," 
Vol. II, Part II, p. 158. 

V In any consideration of the Greek seamen we must 

V think of them as existing almost exclusively for one pur- 
i pose — not for trading or exploring or fishing, but for 

fighting. Into the latter was poured practically all their 
seafaring energy. Their general naval strategy consisted 
of two kinds. The first consisted in reproducing afloat 
the principles of fighting on shore. To this end the 
galleys were massed with troops as many as they could 
hold, and so soon as the engaging combatants could get 
close enough they attacked each other with spears and 
shot arrows from their bows. The victory therefore 
came to that floating army which had the most numerous 
and ablest soldiers. Brute force rather than tactics : 
energy rather than skill won the day. 

And thus it continued until about the end of the 
fifth century B.C., when another method of fighting 
was introduced and developed by the Athenians to its 
most perfect state. This consisted as follows : The 
well-manned, quickly-darting galley shot out against 
the enemy, pecked deeply — viciously — with its beak, 
and then hurried out of the danger sphere as quickly 



as it had entered. Connected with the general strategy 
of ramming there were two distinct schemes of tactics 
employed. The first was called diekplous, or sailing 
through. This consisted of breaking the enemy's line. 
A single line of galleys would pass between the enemy's 
line, make a sharp turn, and then swoop down on to 
them from astern, doing the utmost damage with their 
rams. The other was technically known as periplous, 
or sailing around, and consisted in outflanking the 
enemy's ships so as to charge them with the beak 
against their broadside. Thus it will be seen that neither 
of these manoeuvres involved a direct prow-to-prow 
attack, for the reason that the Athenian ships were 
too light as to the bows. Prior to a fight protective 
awnings of sailcloth or horsehair w^ere spread over 
the open spaces on these galleys, and every protection 
that could be afforded the essential oarsmen was pro- 
vided. Everything points to the fact that the Greek 
fleets were properly organised and drilled. An admiral's 
ship was distinguished by a flag as well as any purple or 
vermilion sail which she might carry so as most easily 
to be discernible across the waters. When the fleet was 
at sea doing a passage before a fair wind bound for the 
battle area, the admiral's sail would in itself be suffi- 
cient for a sign. But, as already emphasised, sails were 
lowered before the battle commenced, and it is probable 
that either the flag was displayed somewhere about 
the ship in that case, or that some other method, such 
as the colour of the hull, was employed to cause the 
discrimination. It is probable that the Greek admiral's 
ship at night, like that of the Roman admiral, carried 
three lights, the other warships having one light each, 
except the transports, which were distinguished by 

In battle a national flag was used so as to facilitate 
recognition of one's own vessels from those of the 


enemy. And, as illustrative of the development of the 
early naval tactics, it is well to notice that there existed 
a signalling code — the displaying of a purple flag, for 
instance, being the signal for going into action. Mr. 

Shield Signalling. 

Torr mentions the interesting fact that attempts were 
made at semaphoring with a single flag, and further 
at signalling by flashing the sunlight from a shield. In 
addition to the above, signals were made for getting 

E 49 


under way, for altering the formation of the fleet, for 
bringing-to, as well as for disembarking troops. 

Their seamanship was necessarily simple, because 
their ships had no complicated gear and were primarily 
rowing craft. We know that they used the sounding lead 
armed with grease, and the numerous landmarks of the 
^gean Sea and the neighbouring waters would be more 
than well known to those in command of the ships 
sailing. When one thinks of the bare simplicity of the 
Mediterranean galley, the fighting ship of Tudor times 
with all its sails and rigging and running gear points 
to a far more elaborate species of seamanship with a 
corresponding increase of anxiety. As to the division 
in supervising the ship's work, the officers consisted 
as follows : The captain of the trireme — called trier- 
archos — was in supreme command of his ship. Under 
him came the kubernetes or helmsman. Then forward 
stood the officer in command of the bow — the proreus 
or look-out man. Under these three officers the ship was 
manoeuvred in such a manner that either the enemy's 
hull might be pierced or, at any rate, his protruding 
lines of oars smashed into splinters, thus rendering him 
an easy prey. 

For the most part the representations of ancient 
classical ships have been so carefully made that they 
have every appearance of accuracy, taking into con- 
sideration the possibilities of wind, sails, and sea, but 
occasionally mistakes are made which show that the 
artist certainly was not a seaman. In the accompanying 
illustration^ we have an instructive picture of a pente- 
conter. She sets two sails with a bowline shown on 
the mizzen, but interesting as the picture is in many 
ways, yet the sails are clearly not set in accordance 
with the wind. The steering oar at the side and the 

1 Taken from Plate LII in " Peintures Antiques de Vases Grecs de la Collec- 
tion de Sir John Coghill^ Bart./' par James Millingen. Rome, 18 J 7. 



flag on the staff at the bows will be immediately 

To sum up, then, the Greek seamen evolved their 
ships as follows : Like the Egyptians and Phoenicians 
before them, they began with a penteconter, which 
means that each man pulled an oar and that there was 
but one tier of twenty-five on either side of the ship. 
Next, inasmuch as they wanted increased power and 
speed — possibly because the ships were being built 
more strongly and thus needed more vehemently to be 
rammed — so they had to increase the number of their 
oarsmen and to lengthen their ship. This involved a 
risk of hogging, so the hull was engirdled ; or when that 

Greek Penteconter from an Ancient Vase. 

That the artist was not a seaman is obvious from the ludicrous way in 
which the sails are depicted. 

was dispensed with a deck was added to join forecastle 
and poop, and gave facilities for a second tier of rowers. 
In the next step we get the introduction of triremes, 
quadriremes, and quinquiremes, which multiplied the 
number of men rowing from each bench, but placed all the 
men on one bench pulling their oars through the same 
porthole. After this come the monstrosities of the power- 
ful Egyptian, Sicilian, and other kings, in whose ships 
each oar was probably pulled by any number of men 
from six to forty. But luxury certainly came afloat at 
no late date. Professor Flinders Petrie calls attention^ 
to the extraordinary analogy between the work of the 
Mykenaeans and that of the Egyptians in the grandly 

^ "Jourual of Hellenic Studies/' Vol. XII, p. 203. 



embroidered squaresails painted in the frescoes at 
Mykense. Certainly as far back as 232 B.C. there were 
mosaics to be seen on the magnificent ship of Hiero II 
of Syracuse.^ 

Not less interesting were the ships and ways of 
ancient Rhodes, which in like manner had its dieres, 
trieres, tetreres, penteres, even up to seven- and nine- 
fold ships. In addition to these they had a swift 
type of their own invention, having one bank of oars, 
called celoces. They were wont, also, to use another 
fast type of craft called triemiolise, which had no 
fighting deck stretching from end to end. The usual 
Rhodian naval tactics consisted in endeavouring to 
run through the enemy's line and break the oars of his 
ships as they passed. Afterwards the Rhodians would 
then turn and ram them at the stern or else on the beam, 
always carrying away something that was essential for 
working the ship unless they could sink her forthAvith. 

They were very fond of one device in particular. 
When they were positively compelled to ram stem to 
stem they used to make provision by depressing their 
own bows as deep as possible in the water, so that while 
the enemy's ram struck them high above the water-line, 
the Rhodian teeth holed the other ship well below the 
water. After the impact was over and the two ships fell 
apart the enemy was in a sinking condition, whereas the 
Rhodian could, by removing his ballast and some of his 
men aft, elevate his bows well above the water-line. 
But just as was discovered in modern ironclads fitted 
with rams, it was found that the rammer often came 
off as grievously as the rammed. At the battle of Chios 
in 201 B.C. one galley left her ram in the enemy's ship, 
promptly filled and sank. At the battle of Myonnesos 
in 190 B.C., when a Rhodian ship was ramming an 
enemy the anchor of the former caught in the latter. 

1 '" Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. XI, p. 193. 



The Rhodian ship endeavoured to go astern to clear 
herself, but as she did so the cable got foul of 
her oars so that she was incapacitated and captured. 
During this same battle the Rhodians affixed braziers 
of fire which hung over the bows. In trying to avoid 
these, the Syrian ships exposed their broadsides to 
the Rhodian rams, so that it became a choice of two 

The Rhodians were fine, able seamen, and well they 
needed to be. But even with the smart handling of 
their fast little craft they had all their work cut out to 
keep off the embarrassing attentions of the Cretan 
pirates during the second century B.C. On the biggest 
of their galleys the Rhodians erected deckhouses with 
portholes for their powerful catapults and archers. 
The custom of employing fireships, which remained 
in vogue for many centuries down to the time of the 
Armada and after, was already being employed by about 
the year 300 B.C. The Rhodians, too, had their proper 
organisation in naval matters as distinct from any 
desultory measures. In the port of Rhodes they had 
their dockyards, which were kept up at a great cost. 
And there is something curiously modern in the stringent 
regulations kept for preserving the dockyard secrets. 
Any unauthorised person who intruded into certain 
parts thereof was punished with death. And this 
strict rule was not peculiar to Rhodes, but obtained 
at Carthage and elsewhere. In order to protect their 
harbours against the assaults of the enemy, booms 
were laid across the entrances, and engines were 
mounted on merchant ships moored near the harbour- 

The Rhodians were great shipbuilders, and in their 
sheds was kept many a craft ready to put to sea. 
But as Britain to-day builds warships for nations other 
than herself, so it was with Rhodes, and to this end 



she used to have brought to her immense quantities of 
timber, iron, lead, pitch, tar, resin, hemp, hair (for 
caulking), and sailcloth. Even human hair was em- 
ployed in the service of the ship, and at the time of need 
the ladies of Rhodes, Carthage, and Massilia cut off 
their tresses and yielded it up for the making of ropes. 
The Rhodian squadrons were usually of three ships or 
multiples of three, and every year a squadron went 
forth for its sea experiences. The trieres, which carried 
as many as two hundred men, each voyaged as far as 
the Atlantic. Fine swimmers, fine seamen, their sea 
prowess was the cause of the greatest admiration on the 
part of the Greeks. " It was a proverb," says Mr. Torr 
in his " Rhodes in Ancient Times," ^ " that ten Rhodians 
were worth ten ships," and we must attribute their 
natural instinct and acquired skill for marine matters 
to that fortunate accident of being an island nation — a 
circumstance which has always, in all parts of the globe, 
meant so much to the progress and independence of a 
nation. Furthermore, the port of Rhodes was an im- 
portant point on the line of commerce, and this fact 
also must be taken into account in reckoning up the 
influences at work for encouraging the marine arts, 
especially in inculcating an interest and admiration 
for the things of the sea. For those great merchant 
ships which used to sail to Egypt and come back to 
Greece laden with corn were accustomed to make 
Rhodes their port of call, and we cannot doubt that the 
sojourn of these big vessels with their impressive bulk 
and remarkable spars would make a powerful appeal to 
the imagination of the local sailormen and shipwrights 
always on the look-out for new ideas. Then, too, they 
had their own overseas trade, for large quantities of 
wine were exported from Rhodes to both Egypt and 
Sicily. Even by the third century B.C. the Rhodians 

^ " Rhodes in Ancient Times," by Cecil Torr. Cambridge, 1885. 



were strong both as a naval and commercial nation. 
Their maritime laws were so excellent that they were 
afterwards adopted by Rome, and even to-day much 
of the world's best sea law can be traced back to the 
people of that Mediterranean island. 




ARINE development under the 
Romans was largely influenced by 
Greek precedent and practice, but 
there were points of difference. 

The transportation of goods 
across the seas was conducted by 
shipowners, who formed themselves 
into corporations under the style 
of navicularii marini, but from the 
middle of November to the middle 
of March navigation was suspended 
until the finer weather returned. 
Under the Republic these shipmen worked for the 
companies of publicani, but Augustus abolished these 
financial companies, appointing in their stead super- 
intendents who dealt direct with the owners of ships. 
The latter were regarded as anything but unimportant. .. 
On them the victualling of the capital largely depended, 
and the early emperors granted them, as owners of 
important merchant vessels, special privileges ; but 
this was conditional on their ships possessing a capacity 
of 10,000 modii, and on their carrying corn to Rome 
for the period of six years. Though they were not in the 
permanent employ of the State, yet they were liberally 
rewarded for their services. In the corporations of the 
navicularii marini there was no clear distinction between 
the shipowner who worked " on his own " and those 
engaged in working for the State. 


From the time of Diocletian, however, the navicnlarii 
were all servants of the State, and it was their duty to 
transport cargoes of corn, oil, wood, and bullion from 
the provinces to Rome or Constantinople. In their 
ships the Imperial post was carried. They received a 
fixed percentage and were responsible to the State for 
the goods placed in their holds. Membership of these 
corporations was handed down from father to son. 
They were allowed to engage in private trade and enjoyed 
the additional privilege of passing their cargoes duty 
free through the Customs. Similarly, additional to the 
overseas traffic, the internal navigation was organised 
by corporations of merchants and barge-owners. For 
example, the State employed them to handle the con- 
signments of corn from Egypt on the Nile, Tiber, and 
the rivers and lakes of Northern Italy, Spain, Gaul, 
and Germany. So, too, the Rhone and Saone were 
navigated by them. 

The reader is aware that we have had necessity to 
refer more than once to the corn-ships from Egypt, 
and in an age that was given up rather to the develop- 
ment of the fighting galley than to the exploiting of 
the cargo ship these trans-Mediterranean grain-carriers 
stand out prominently as a class by themselves. It is 
most unlikely that they altered much during a space 
of several hundred years, when even that much-petted 
craft, the galley, remained so little modified. There- 
fore the following account which has been left to us 
by Lucian may be regarded not merely as representa- 
tive of the corn-ship in his immediate period, but as 
characteristic of the ship for probably five hundred 
years at least. Lucian lived in the second century, and 
was born probably about a.d. 120. In the dialogue 
from which the following extract is taken he taunts his 
friend Timolaus with being ever fond of a fine spectacle ; 
to which the latter replies that he had had nothing 



to do, and being told of " this monster vessel of 
extraordinary proportions putting in at the Piraeus," 
he goes on to explain that " she is one of the Egyptian 
corn-ships and bound for Italy." 

Keenly interested, they went on board her by the 

The Egyptian Corn-Ship "Goddess Isis" (circa a.d. 120). 

gangway, and he goes on to refer to the ship's cabins, 
which he examined, to the shipwright who conducted 
them round the ship, calls attention to the lofty mast, 
stares in amazement at the sailors " as they mounted 
by the ropes, and then with perfect safety ran along 


the yards holding on to the halyards." A hundred 
and thh^ty feet long she measured, with 30-feet beam, 
whilst from deck to bottom of hold she was 29 feet at 
her deepest part. 

" What a mast she has ! " exclaims Samippus, one 
of the friends; "and how huge a yard she carries, and 
what a stay it requires to hold it up in its place ! 
With what a gentle curve her stern rises, finished with 
a goose-neck all of gold ! At the other end, in just 
proportion, the prow stands up, lengthening itself out 
as it gets forward, and showing the ship's name, the 
Goddess Isis, on either side. . . . The decorations and 
the flame-coloured foresail, and beyond these the anchor 
with the windlass and capstan, and I must not omit 
the stern cabins. Then the number of souls would 
make one think it was a camp. We were told it carried 
enough corn to feed all the people of Athens for a year. 
And all we saw had so far been carried safe and sound 
by a little old man, using a slight tiller to turn that huge 
rudder. They showed him to me — a bald-pated fellow 
with a fringe of curly hair. Hero, I think, by name." 

Then Timolaus still further enriches the narrative : 

" The passenger told me of his marvellous seaman- 
ship ; in all seafaring matters he out-Proteused Proteus 
in skill. Did you hear how he brought his ship home, 
and all they went through on the voyage, or how the 
star guided them to safety ? " Lucian answers that 
he has not heard, so Timolaus goes on to inform him. 

" The captain told it me all himself — an honest 
fellow, and good company. Seven days after leaving the 
Pharos they sighted Cape Acamas without meeting with 
any very severe weather. Then the west wind proving 
contrary, they were swept across as far as Sidon ; and 
after Sidon they fell in with a heavy gale ; and on the 
tenth day came to the Chelidonian Islands, passing 
through the channel, where they had a narrow escape 



of going down, every man of them. I know what that 
is, for I once passed the Chehdonians myself, and re- 
member how high the sea runs there, especially when 
the wind is in the south-west and backing south. For 
the result of this is that the Pamphylian Gulf is cut 
in two by the Lycian Sea, and the wave is split up by 
endless cross currents at the promontory, the rocks there 
being sheer and worn sharp by the wash of water, so 
that the surf becomes really formidable and the roar 
overpowering, and, indeed, the wave (not infrequently) 
is full as large as the rock it strikes. This, the captain 
said, was what they were surprised by in the midst of 
night and literal darkness ; but, he added, the gods 
were moved with pity at their cries, and revealed to 
them from the Lycian coast the light of a fire, so that 
they knew where they were ; and at the same time a 
bright star, one of the Twins, took his place at the 
masthead, guiding the ship to the left towards the open 
sea, just as it was bearing down on the rock. After 
that, having once fallen off from their true course, they 
at length succeeded in crossing the ^gean, and beating 
up in the teeth of the Etesian winds, only yesterday, 
seventy days out from Egypt, put in at the Piraeus. 
They had so long been off their course in the lower seas 
that they missed doing what they should have done, 
keeping Crete on the right and steering past Malea. 
Otherwise they would have been in Italy by this time." 
Further on in the course of the conversation, Adei- 
mantus, one of the friends, mentions that after stopping 
to measure the thickness of the anchor, "though I had 
seen everything, I must needs stop to ask one of the 
sailors what was the average return to the owner from 
the ship's cargo." " Twelve Attic talents," he replied, 
" is the lowest figure, if you like to reckon it that way."i 

^ "Six Dialogues of Lucian," translated into English by S. T. Irwin. 
London, 1894. 



I make no apology for giving so full a quotation, for 
there is in the narrative something so sincere and yet 
so curiously modern : the whole picture is so full of 
sparkling bits of colour that it is most pleasing, and 
we can almost see this mammoth ship with her hefty 
spars and beautiful curves and " flame-coloured " sails. 
The intervening space of nearly two thousand years 
seems to have made but little difference in the type of 
skippers. I am sure that to many a sailing man to-day 
the delightful little sketch of the captain of the Goddess 
Isis corn-carrier as " the little old man," "a bald-pated 
fellow Avith a fringe of curly hair " sitting at his tiller, 
will at once suggest the very counterpart in the style 
and appearance of the skipper of a corn-barge — " an 
honest fellow, and good company." And the account 
of the bad weather encountered successfully, the use of 
stellar navigation, the good seamanship employed, and 
the proof of the corn-ship's seaworthiness are all too 
interesting to be lightly dispensed with. In the present 
days of accurate charts, ingenious nautical instruments, 
and big, sound ships, one is a little too apt to imagine 
that the ships and the ability of their crews in ancient 
times were scarcely worthy of serious consideration — 
deserving of little more than ridicule. So many ill- 
informed artists, who have drawn on their imagination 
in the past to depict what they believed to be the ships 
of olden times, have been shown to be wrong and mis- 
leading, that there has been such a reaction as to make 
it difficult to obtain any definite legitimate picture in 
one's mind. It is just such accounts written by con- 
temporaries as that of the Goddess Isis that enable us 
once more to see the ships of the past in their true like- 
ness and proportions. 

But we must return to the warships. Prior to the time 
of Augustus there was no fleet in being. Ships were 
built or fitted out at the approach of war — a principle 



that the whole maritime history of the world has always 
shown to be the most unmitigated naval heresy. But 
by the year 337 B.C. there were certainly docks at Rome 
— the word used is navalia — so at least there was some 
provision made for the accommodation of ships. Know- 
ing what we do of the Romans as magnificent organisers 
and soldiers ashore, we are not surprised to find that 
the same spirit was manifested in arranging the com- 
mands afloat. The general command at sea was vested 
in the two consuls. Later on there were appointed two 
fleet-masters under the designation, " duoviri na vales 
classis ornandse reficiendseque causa." There was thus 
a double squadron consisting usually of twenty ships, ten 
being under each duumvir. The coming of the Punic 
War had this effect, however, that it caused Rome to 
think more seriously of her ships and to become in fact 
a great naval power. In 260 B.C. there were built 100 
quinquiremes and 20 triremes; with these the Romans 
defeated the Carthaginian fleet of 130 at Mylse. The 
method employed was that which thereafter was to be 
practised for so many centuries down the history of 
naval fights ; that is to say, the device consisted in 
boarding each other and engaging in hand-to-hand 
encounter. In the present instance a boarding bridge 
was held up against the mast by means of ropes and 
pulleys and let down promptly on to the enemy's deck 
for the troops of the Roman ships to rush furiously 
across. The Greek word for this boarding bridge was 
korax, the derivative meaning of which was a raven- 
like beak for grappling. The Latin word was corvus. 
So powerful had the Romans become at sea that they 
also defeated with 330 ships the Carthaginian fleet of 
350 at Ecnomus. Did a violent storm engulf two or 
three hundred Roman ships ? Then they set to work 
forthwith to build as many and more by the aid of 
voluntary effort. She had such extensive resources 


to fall back on that she was destined to win not ex- 
clusively by good seamanship and tactics, but by 
weight of numbers. The boarding bridges just men- 
tioned had been found of the greatest value, and yet 

The " KoRAX " or Boarding Bridge in Action. 

prior to their invention boarding tactics had yet been 
employed. As far back as 413 b.c. (when they used 
them against the Syracusans) grapnels had been in use 
for hitching on to the enemy and then pouring slaughter 
and death into him, 



During the second Punic War, Rome had appreciated 
the value of retaining permanent squadrons with the 
same commanders. Thus one squadron was based on 
Tarraco, another — that of Sicily — on Lilybaeum. The 
Adriatic squadron was based on Brundisium. These 
three squadrons provided a fleet of about two hundred 
ships. But when war was threatening, new quin- 
quiremes were built and the old ones were refitted. 
But this excellent system of having a standing navy 
was subsequently abolished and Rome's general sea- 
command disappeared. 

During the first Punic War the fleet was commanded 
by one or both consuls in person. Then the separate 
squadrons were commanded by praetors or propraetors, 
though later on by proconsuls or consuls who some- 
times deputed the command to a praefectus. The crews 
consisted of three sections — the oarsmen, the sailors, 
and the marines, designated respectively remiges, 
nautce, and milites classici. It is important to bear in 
mind that no Roman ever handled an oar, but that 
the rowers and sailors were supplied from the allies and 
maritime colonies. This is evidence of the fact that, 
unlike the Phoenicians or the Vikings, the Romans were 
not instinctively seamen, but only took to the ocean 
because it was essential for their safety on shore. 

The expression socii navales became the stereotyped 
phrase for the crew of oarsmen and sailors. Later on — 
in the third century B.C.— libertini were to a great ex- 
tent employed in the crews. Slaves were used during 
the Hannibalian War as oarsmen, and sometimes the 
ships were manned by prisoners. When it was necessary, 
the crews were sometimes armed and used as soldiers. 
But the Roman naval service was never popular, and 
consequently there were many desertions. The captain 
of each galley was designated ??iagister navis. He 
and the steersman- (gubernator) were ingenui, the 
64 . 

, • ' 3 ' ' J > 

' > ' > 3 

, ' ' > I 

Sketches of Ancient Ships. 

By Richard Cook, r.a., from Montfarreon's "Antiquities," sliowing warships with 
marines and figliting-plaj^rn amidsliips ; the lower sketches show clearly the types 

rtf VirkW nnrl ^;fpvn r 


steersman ranking with a centurion. The marines 
were drawn usually from the Roman proletariat, and 
there was an arrangement of some sort for the dis- 
tribution of prize-money. Additional to the triremes, 
quadriremes, and quinquiremes, there were also scouts 
— lembi, which were but light craft — and pentekontors. 

Great importance was clearly attached to the quin- 
quiremes, for in such craft envoys, commissioners, or 
messengers of victory were carried. They fought to- 
gether with the triremes and quadriremes as the capital 
ships of the Roman navy, and whilst the State de- 
pended on the treaty towns and allies for their lighter 

Three Ancient Coins from Scheffer's " De Militia Navali" 


craft, yet the all-important quinquiremes were kept 
under immediate control. The description and arrange- 
ment of the different kinds of Greek warships is generally > 
applicable to those of the Romans. On the deck of the 
galley the troops fought, while below them were the 
oarsmen. These propugnatores were protected by 
means of bulwarks (propugnacula) as well as by two 
wooden towers (turres)^ carried on supports which could 
be taken down from the ship whenever required. 

Among the Greeks it was customary to divide ships 
into kataphraktoi and aphraktoi, according as to 
whether thev were decked in or otherwise. The corre- 
sponding Latin expressions were navis tecta or navis 

F 65 


aperta respectively. The quinquireme, however, was 
always cataphract ; that is to say, the planking did 
not end at the gunwale, but was continued to the upper 
deck so as to afford protection to the rowers from 
missiles. As to the dimensions and tonnage of the 
quinquireme it is impossible to make any statement, 
but they were of such a size that, with some difficulty, 
they could be hauled up on shore at night. 

Augustus realised that a Roman fleet in 
being was essential to police the seas and 
keep down piracy so as to ensure the safe 
passage of Rome's corn supply from Egypt. 
The two fleets which he based permanently 
on Misenum and Ravenna respec- 
tively to guard the Western and 
Eastern seas were of the utmost 
utility. He even went so far as 
to connect Ravenna with the Po 
by means of a canal. 
Manned with crews and 
captains who were either 
^^^ slaves or freedmen, the 
ships were unfortunately 
allowed to rot and the 
service to fall into desue- 
tude, and about a.d. 6 
piracy was again ram- 
pant, so that it required 
once more to be checked. 
During the first century B.C. two new types of war- 
ships appeared in the bireme and the liburnian. The 
latter was really a lightly built trireme, and originally 
was a swift lembos with a ram attached. The Romans 
built liburnians also as biremes, which they employed 
for scouting and fighting. The name was derived from 
the Liburnians of Dalmatia, from whom the shape of 

Bronze Figurehead of Minerva from a 

Roman Ship found in the sea off Actium. 

(Probably belonging to one of the ships which 
fouglit in the battle of Actium, b.c. 31.) 






4y-- ^^ 

> > 1 > > ' J ■> , ' 5 , > 

Sketches of Ancient Ships. 

By Richard Cook, R.A.,lrom Moiitfarreon's " Aiiti(iuities," showing Roman Warship 

under sail ; the lower sketches well illustrate species of stems and sterns. 

3'. 06 


the hull was borrowed ; but later on the expression came 
to denote simply a ship of war. Just before the dawn 
of the Christian era the Romans began to build those 
bigger and stouter ships, mounting heavy catapults, 
which were probably not very different from the tall 
ships which the Crusaders had to contend with some 
hundreds of years later. 

Before the close of the second century a.d. there 
were afloat not only the Italian fleets, but also those 
of the Roman provinces. There was the Egyptian 
fleet based on Alexandria, the Syrian fleet, the Libyan 
fleet, the Euxine fleet, besides two fleets on the Danube 
and the Rhine. Furthermore, there must not be omitted 
the Romano-British fleet — the Classis Britannica — which 
was based on Boulogne (Gesoriacum), with stations at 
Dover, Lympne, and Gloucester. This dated from the 
invasion by Claudius and assisted Agricola in his 
Scottish expedition in a.d. 83. It circumnavigated 
Britain, discovered for the Romans the Orkneys, and 
saw the long line of the outer Hebrides. The classiarii 
also on shore helped to build Hadrian's wall. But as to 
the exact nature of such ships we shall speak in greater 
detail presently. 

Each of the fleets just mentioned was commanded 
by a prsefectus and had also a sub-prsefectus. The 
Egyptian fleet-prsefect was sometimes also prsefect of 
the Nile revenue boats. Each ship was commanded 
by a trierarch, the classiarii being organised as a century 
under a centurio-classicus, or fleet-centurion. Thus 
whenever the men had to be put on shore for duty their 
organisation went with them. The term of service for 
the classiarii was twenty-five or twenty-six years. The 
Roman fleets illustrated at an early date in the world's 
history what every nation has since been compelled to 
realise : that a standing navy cannot be dispensed with 
among the essential attributes of peace and self-defence. 



Rome's fleets kept off Carthage and Philip and enabled 
Rome to be mistress of the sea route between Hannibal 
and Spain ; and, as is usually the case, the decadence 
of the Government was promptly followed by the 
decadence of the fleet. 

The influence of the Roman navy on land was seen 
in a manner similar to that in which the Roman army 
influenced gladiatorial combats. In Rome there were 
various "naumachiae," which were great reservoirs sur- 
rounded by seats like an amphitheatre and were 

Two Coins depicting " Naumachij^v," 
(From Scheffer's " De Militia Navali.") 

specially constructed for holding naval fights. There 
was one, for instance, ^ built by Augustus on the trans- 
tiberine side of the river, and traces of this naumachia 
were discovered not many years ago. A naumachia 
consisted of an enormous tank or lake excavated in the 
ground, and measured 1800 feet long by 1200 feet wide. 
Within this ample area naval battles containing thirty 
beaked ships with three or four tiers of oars, together 
with many other smaller ships were engaged, and no 
fewer than three thousand fighting men, to say nothing 
of the rowers, were engaged. It is interesting to add 

1 "The Remains of Ancient Rome," by J. H. Middleton. London^ 1892. 


' ' >'•• " '.' ]\ l'^\ l,^^\ 












r c c , 

c c tc ' / 


that naval fights were also held in a gigantic reservoir 
on the site now occupied by the Colosseum. 

No consideration of the relation of Rome to the sea 
can be complete without taking into consideration those 
important and daring adventures which Julius Caesar 
attempted. Adventures they certainly were, for here 
was a land general trying experiments which belonged 
rightly to sailormen ; and, as was the inevitable result, 
\ he made terrible mistakes as he blundered through 
towards victory. His expedition against the Veneti, 
" the stoutest and the most skilful seamen in Gaul," 
taught him much : taught him that he was matched 
to play a game whose tricks he did not understand. 
But the praise belongs to him, a landsman, for his 
ingenuity and resource in toiling with such signal success 
against very heavy odds. He recognised quickly that 
the ships of the Veneti and their allies were so heavy 
that no Roman galley with its cruel rams could have 
any appreciable effect on them. They were too high 
out of the water, too, to enable the legionaries to hurl 
their missiles with any telling effect. It has been 
suggested that the design of these powerful Biscayan 
craft had originally been borrowed from the great 
Carthaginian merchantmen, " whose commerce in 
British waters they had inherited, and their prosperity 
depended upon the carrying trade with Britain, of 
which they possessed the monopoly." ^ 

It was Caesar's opportunity to rise to the occasion, 
and he availed himself of the chance. Sending in- 
structions to his officers to have a fleet built in the ports 
at the mouth of the Loire, he also raised oarsmen from 
the province and collected as many local pilots and 
seamen as possible. Thus, when the time came, the 
Roman fleet included ships impressed from the maritime 
tribes between the Loire and Garonne. The Roman 

1 " Caesar's Conquest of Gaul," by T. Rice Holmes. Oxford, 1911. 



engineers also came to the rescue, and, taking long 
poles, they armed them at one end with sharp-edged 
hooks. There was just one feature in which the galleys 
surpassed the stout ships of the enemy : they were far 
more mobile. So, when the rival fleets approached, 
two or more galleys ran alongside the Biscayan craft, 
thrust out the sharp hooks, caught the halyards, rowed 
hard away, with the result that the ropes snapped, the 
yard and sail came tumbling down on to the deck below 
and enveloped the crew. Springing smartly from the 
galleys on to this confused crowd, the enemy was soon 
slaughtered and the ship captured. In principle, though 
not in detail, the tactic was similar to that used in 
comparatively modern times when sailing men-of-war 
aimed to blow away the enemy's rigging, leaving him 
so much out of control that complete annihilation was 
a matter only of time. 

But far more interesting than his expedition against 
the Veneti was Caesar's invasion of England. Regarded 
merely as a naval exploit, it is deserving of great atten- 
tion ; but to those who have had any experience of 
winds, waves, and tides it is most instructive. Picture 
Caesar, therefore, in the summer of 55 B.C. at Gesoria- 
cum, better known to the reader under its modern 
name of Boulogne. Here was a port that was important 
in even those early days. From this spot the merchants 
of Gaul were wont to embark their cargoes and carry 
them across the Channel to the shores of Kent, and later 
on it was destined to become one of the naval stations 
for the Classis Britannica. Think of it in the year we 
are speaking of as a busy place, lined with shipyards 
along its banks and many craft in its haven. From 
the forest above could be hewn and floated down the 
trees for the making of ships. Every mariner to-day 
knows that when the heavy north-east gales make it 
impossible for the cross-Channel packet-steamers to 


North Torelahd 


• to 





"So^TH Fore'lAND 







Chart to illustrate Caesar's crossing the English Channel. 


enter Calais, Boulogne can be entered with safety by 
even sailing craft. 

But inasmuch as the prevailing wind along the 
English Channel is from the south-west, the reader will 
observe on consulting a chart that the position of 
Boulogne for the Gallic traders bound for Dover or 
the Thames was singularly well placed, inasmuch as it 
gave the mariner a fair wind outward-bound on most 
occasions. That fact was doubtless appreciated by 
Caesar when he elected to use this port as his starting- 
place for Britain. He therefore gave orders that his 
fleet was here to be got in readiness, and then sent forth 
Volusenus in a galley to reconnoitre the British coast. 
The ship was a Roman galley manned by oarsmen who 
had been trained by years of work for the task, and 
with such a craft as this Volusenus could be indepen- 
dent of wind and accomplish his task with the utmost 
dispatch. He was away cruising about the English 
Channel for a period of three days, during which time 
he had doubtless been able to locate a suitable place 
where his master's troops could be disembarked. He 
had had the opportunity of taking soundings, and — 
perhaps most important of all to one accustomed almost 
exclusively to the Mediterranean — of noticing both the 
range of tide and the force and direction of the strong 
tidal streams. Similarly, he was able to make a note of 
the cliffs of Dover and other landmarks. With this know- 
ledge he returned to place himself at Caesar's disposal. 

On August 25, then, the transports came out from 
Boulogne. The time was midnight, it wanted five days 
to full moon, and high water that evening was at 
6 p.m., so that the tides were neaps, or at their weakest. 
We can be quite sure that, acting on the experience of 
Volusenus in the Channel, it was deliberately intended 
to avoid spring tides. (It is high water at Boulogne 
at new and full moon at 11.28.) The transports thus 


came out of the haven with the last drain of the ebb. 
But in the offing the tide that night did not make to the 
eastward till 4 a.m., so there would be the Channel ebb 
to contend against for some time. 

So far all had been splendidly arranged, so that by the 
time the flood or east-going tide had begun the fleet 
would all have got clear of the harbour and the oarsmen 
have been getting into their stride for the passage. Gris 
Nez and the French cliffs were left behind as the hulls 
ploughed their way through the heaving sea and sped 
onwards. But it was not to be a quick passage. The 
tide, of course, turned against them before they were 
across, and those transports would not easily be im- 
pelled through the waves ; but at nine the next morning 
the oar-propelled galleys which had got ahead during 
the night approached the cliffs of Dover. Far behind 
followed the sail-driven transports, so Caesar let go 
anchor in Dover Bay, summoned a council of his 
generals and tribunes, gave them instructions as to the 
landing-place, told them how to handle both ships and 
men in disembarking, and then between three and four 
o'clock that same afternoon the bulky transports 
wallowed up to join the galleys. Between four and five 
p.m. the Channel stream off Dover turned to the east- 
ward, and as the wind was favourable Caesar gave the 
signal to weigh anchor. Presently the galleys, trans- 
ports, and the smaller craft were stretched out running 
past the Foreland with wind and tide to help them. It 
did not take them long to skirt past St. Margaret's 
Bay, and at some point between Walmer and Deal the 
transports were beached and the journey accomplished. 
Thus, with careful foresight, Caesar had got safely across 
the Channel with his troops and fleet. 

These transports had carried his infantry ; now the 
cavalry were starting not from Boulogne, but from 
Ambleteuse, which is about midway between Boulogne 




and Cape Gris Nez, and slightly nearer to Dover. Not 
till August 30 were these descried approaching the 
British coast. A gale from the north-east sprang up and 
prevented them from keeping their course, so that some 
were carried back to Ambleteuse, while others were 
swept to the westward down Channel. Some anchored 
for a time, but the north-east wind gave them a lee 
shore, and they had to put out to sea and make for 
the Continent. Some scudded past the gale beyond 
the South Foreland and the high cliffs of Dover, risking 
disaster every minute. Those which had hauled with 
the wind abeam over to the Gallic coast managed to 
heave-to on the port tack, and drifting past Cape Gris 
Nez, were in fairly sheltered water, so that they could 
carry on and make port. This they did, and re-entered 
Ambleteuse without the loss of either a ship or a man. 
Such a fact proves at once that Caesar had been able to 
get together from somewhere a number of men who 
were not novices, but very fine seamen. We luust 
concede that the Gallic sailors knew their business, at 
any rate. 

Caesar and his men had already landed near Deal. 
They had left their galleys and the infantry transports, 
and gone inland before this had happened. The galleys, 
as was the Mediterranean custom for centuries, had 
been hauled up above the mark for ordinary high 
water ; the transports, because of their weight and 
size, had been left at anchor. Now Caesar, in spite of 
what he had gathered regarding tides, had evidently 
omitted to bear in mind the fact that at full moon or 
new moon — " springs " — the rise of the tide is greater 
than at neaps. Neither he nor his officers knew the 
connection between tides and moon, and there is a differ- 
ence of several feet on that coast between high-water 
springs and high-water neaps. It was full moon, and 
every seafaring man knows that when a gale does occur 


at that time it is worse than when the moon is not at full 
or change. High water was somewhere about 11 p.m. 
Wind and tide rose in great strength on to this lee 
shore, so that the galleys which had been hauled up 
were dashed to pieces, while transports broke from their 
anchors and drove on to the beach. 

We have no concern with any operations on land ; 
it is enough for our purpose to add that after spending 
some time in making repairs to those ships which re- 
mained, Caesar took his ships and men back to Boulogne. 
The expedition had proved a failure. But in the 
following year Caesar again invaded Britain. This time 
he set forth neither from Boulogne nor Ambleteuse, but 
from Wissant, which is about midway between the 
chalk cliffs of Cape Blanc Nez and the sandstone cliffs 
of Cape Gris Nez, and on the charts of to-day you will 
still find " Caesar's Camp " marked. Wissant was 
much nearer to the British coast than either of the 
other two ports, and the Roman evidently was not 
anxious to make the cross-Channel passage any longer 
than need be this time. The fleet at Boulogne had been 
weather-bound for three weeks with a series of north- 
west winds. Anyone who has sailed along this portion of 
the French coast knows what a nasty sea a wind from 
that direction sets up, blowing as it does directly on 
shore. A north-west wind would have sent a strong swell 
into Boulogne harbour ; but apart from that, even had 
the ships been at Wissant ready to start it would not 
have been of much avail, for the course from there to 
the nearest British shore was about north-west — a dead 
" nose-ender." June, therefore, came and went. 

But about July 6, Caesar set sail from Wissant about 
sunset. As the wind was light from the south-west he 
had a favourable air. There was no moon, but the nights 
are warm and not very dark at the beginning of July. 
The tide probably set him down some distance in the 



vicinity of Gris Nez, for it did not begin to flow to the 
north-east till 10 p.m. Good progress was made this 
time, and by midnight the leading division was getting 
well up to the South Foreland. The wind, as it so often 
does on a July night, began to fail and finally dropped 
utterly, so that the fleet had barely steerage way. The 
strong Channel flood took hold of them, and about 
3.15 a.m. Caesar was abreast of Kingsdown (a little to 
the south of Walmer). Eventually he arrived at 
Sandwich about noon, having no doubt anchored for 
six hours, since the Channel tide was just about to run 
to the south-west when he had got to Kingsdown. This 
time he left his 600 ships not hauled up on the beach, 
but at anchor, having disembarked his troops. Yet once 
more a storm rose which caused some of the vessels to 
part their anchors, others to collide with each other, and 
others still to be dashed ashore and damaged. Forty 
were totally destroyed, but the remainder he managed 
to patch well enough. They were hauled ashore, 
probably by means of windlasses or capstans, greased 
rollers being inserted under the keels. They were then 
surrounded by earthworks so as to be protected effi- 
ciently. About the middle of September and about nine 
o'clock at night, Caesar and his fleet once more returned 
from Britain and arrived at Boulogne about daybreak. 
He took back with him a great deal of invaluable 
information on the subject of tides, but the cost of 
obtaining such knowledge had been by no means small. 
It is possible that a critical reader may feel disposed to 
remark that the Channel tides in Caesar's time were not 
identical in direction and force with those of to-day. 
It is impossible to settle the point with accuracy. 
Certain it is that for some centuries the coast between 
Sandgate and Dover has altered a good deal, but, 
speaking generally, this has not been of much conse- 
quence, though a good deal of alteration has taken 


place between Hythe and Dungeness, which may or 
may not have affected the tidal stream. Similarly, it is 
a matter for dispute whether the Channel stream in 
the neighbourhood of the Dover Straits began to ebb 
and flow at precisely the same time as to-day. It is 
more than possible that the changes in the configuration 
of the coast and of the Goodwin Sands may, during the 
centuries, have modified the Channel tides hereabouts. 
Some say that in Caesar's time Thanet was an island, 
that Dungeness did not exist, that Romney Marsh was 
covered at high water by an estuary 50,000 acres in 
extent, and that the estuary of the Thames was far 
wider than to-day. But even when all these points 
have been taken into consideration, two facts remain 
true : that the tide ebbed and flowed backwards and 
forwards along the English Channel, and that because 
of the narrow neck through which this huge volume of 
water has to rush by the Straits of Dover there must 
have been not much difference in strength from that 
which is experienced to-day. 

The geographical information which Caesar brought 
back concerning Gaul and Britain after his campaigns 
, cannot be lightly regarded. It was the knowledge 
I which an explorer bestows on a wondering community. 
Such items as prevailing winds, tides, currents, the 
influence of moon and the nature of harbours along 
the coast, the depths of water, and so on, might have 
been appreciated still more had the Romans been as 
eager for scientific knowledge as they were for organisa- 
tion and conquest. 

But if the Romans were not great navigators nor 
even a race of seamen, at any rate they were very fine 
shipwrights. Expert opinion of to-day, arguing from 
the evidence of the only Roman craft which are still in 
existence, gives the highest praise to the art of the 
Roman shipbuilder. The relics of the craft found in 



Lake Nemi were discussed by me in another volume, ^ 
and need be referred to now only slightly. But the 
other craft which was recently unearthed whilst ex- 
cavations were being made in 1910 at Westminster, on 
the site for the new London County Council Hall, is 
far more instructive, because being above ground it is 
get-at-able and capable of intimate study. It now lies 
among the collection of the London Museum in Ken- 
sington Gardens. This craft was probably one of the 

jhip cf tKe llpTirjan. UpLod 

Sketch showing the Interior of Hull. -^ 

fleet of Carausius, who for a time was admiral under 
Maximilian and Diocletian, but subsequently rebelFe^- 
against the Imperial authority and proclaimed himself 
emperor of Britain in a.d. 287. 

This boat was found lying on a shell sand which 
indicated the original bed of the Thames. The date is 
approximately fixed by the three coins which were 
found with the boat : one of Tetricus the Elder in 
Gaul (a.d. 268-273), the second of Carausius in Britain 
(a.d. 286-293), and the third of Alectus in Britain (a.d. 


^ "Sailing Ships and their Story." 


293-296). It is possible that there was some ceremony 
in placing coins in a Roman boat, just as to-day coin of 
the realm is placed at the laying of a foundation-stone. 

She was probably a single-decked war-galley, built 
in Gaul, but had been dismantled before being 
abandoned to sink in the waters of the Thames. One 
expert naval architect, who made a careful inspection 
of this relic when first discovered, has gone so far as to 
state that not only is the craftsmanship excellent, that 
probably nothing built in our own time would look so 
well after seventeen hundred years' immersion, but 
that finer fitting could not be expected to-day. It 
shows, further, not merely good workmanship, but 
good design. 

It is more than likely that this ship was built at 
Boulogne on one of the Roman shipyards there, and 
formed originally a unit in the Classis Britannica. 
There is a votive tablet preserved in the Boulogne 
Museum, and found in that neighbourhood, depicting 
two triremes with the stern steering oar, the beak at 
the bows, and the banks of oars, which shows how 
similar these Romano-British ships were to the Mediter- 
ranean model. The votive offering in question had 
been made bv the crew of a trireme named the Radians. 
Possibly the Westminster ship was the flagship of 

Her timbers were found to have been cut with the 
grain, and every other one ran to the gunwale. A 
rubbing strake ran along outside the hull which took 
the thwart ends, the recesses for the same being still 
visible. It would appear as if the frames above turned 
outwards and formed a support for that gangway 
along which the soldiers were wont to fight. Some 
think there is evidence to show that the ship had a 
false keel, and that she carried a mast. As to the 
dimensions of the vessel, one authority, judging by the 









Details of Roman Ship found at Westminster. 


run of the stringer, suggests that when she was whole 
she measured about 90 feet long by 18 feet beam. The 
material was oak ; the treenails, which were perfectly 
made and fitted, measured IJ inches in diameter.^ 

The two vessels buried at the bottom of Lake Nemi 
— from the fragments which have been brought to 
the surface — belong to the time of Caligula (a.d. 37), 
and equally demonstrate the first-class workmanship 
of the Romans. Of these two pleasure craft one 
measured 208 feet long by 65 feet beam, whilst the 
other was 227 feet by 80 feet. The planking was of 
white fir, and the frames were probably of oak. All the 
metal fastenings below the water-line were of bronze, 
but above water they were iron. The nail heads were 
cemented over and the planking canvased, and finally 
a lead sheathing was laid on with copper nails. It has 
been ascertained that the builders had been careful to 
cut out any faulty timber, and to fill up the space with 
sound material. The metal fastenings connecting the 
timbers and planking were put through, the points 
being laid over and turned back into the wood. The 
planking in the first of the Nemi wrecks was of two 
thicknesses of Ij-inch stuff. In the larger of the two, 
three thicknesses of planking were found to exist, the 
beams for the decks being found to be attached to the 
gunwale as in the method seen on the Westminster 

Even if we allow a great deal for the knowledge in 
shipbuilding which the Romans acquired from the 
Veneti and from Gallic shipbuilders, yet everything 
points to the fact that Italy knew how to build and 
how to fight ships to such perfection that we cannot 
but feel for them the keenest admiration. If they were 
not great explorers such as the Phoenicians, they ac- 

1 See article in "The Yachting Monthly/' Vol. XII, p. 81, "The Shipwrights 
of Rome." 

a 81 


complished a great deal in other spheres of the maritime 
art, and sometimes in the teeth of great obstacles. 

Here and there Virgil gives us delightful little sea- 
cameos which show how keenly the ancients exulted in 
their ships, and raced them against each other past 
rock and cliff, through wind and spume. What, for 
example, could be more interesting than the account 


Joint ^- 




Details of Roman Ship found at Westminster. 

of the race of the four galleys in the fifth book of the 
^neid ? He gives you the names of the swift Pristis, 
the huge Chimcera, which with her triple arrangement 
of oars was so big that she seemed like a floating town, 
the Centaur, and the dark blue Scylla. He draws for 
you the picture of the captains standing at the 
sterns, the crew taking their seats at the oars and 
waiting in eager breathlessness for the trumpet to 


start them on their race. Almost you can see the 
strong arms being drawn up to the breast and thrust 
smartly away again. The blue Scylla wins, but it is a 
splendid struggle. The little touches of the ship which 
was " swifter than wind or flying arrow speeds towards 
land," and of the disabled galley which moves slowly 
(like to a snake which has been run over), yet hoists 
her canvas and enters the harbour's mouth " with full 
sails," are pencilled in by a man who must have often 
watched a galley doing her work. He speaks of the 
lofty sterns which these galleys possessed, of Palinurus 
the pilot bidding his men to reef the sails at the gather- 
ing of a " dark storm of rain, bringing with it gloom 
and foul weather," and gives orders to " labour at their 
strong oars, and sidewards turn the sails to meet the 
wind." Evidently with the squall came a shift of 
wind, so that instead of being able to run with the 
breeze free, under sail power alone, they were now 
compelled to come on a wind, shorten canvas, and get 
out oars to prevent such shallow-draught vessels from 
drifting to leeward. 

And in a later passage iEneas, after the sea has 
calmed down, " bids all the masts quickly to be raised, 
and on the sailyards the sails to be stretched. All at 
once veered the sheet, and loosened the bellying canvas 
to right, to left ; at once they all turn up and down the 
tall ends of the sailyards ; favouring breezes bear the 
fleet along. Foremost before them all, Palinurus led 
the close line ; with an eye to him the rest were bid to 
direct their course. And now damp night had just 
reached the centre of its course in the heavens ; the 
sailors, stretched on their hard seats beneath the oars, 
had relaxed their limbs in quiet repose." 

There is some indication in the Georgics of the manner 
in which the ancient seamen made use of stars and 
weatherology. " As carefully must the star of Arcturus, 



and the days of the Kids, and the bright Dragon be 
observed by us on land, as by those who, homewards 
bound across the stormy seas, venture to the Euxine 
and the straits of oyster-breeding Abydos." . . . 
" Hence we can learn coming changes of weather in the 
dubious sky, hence the days of harvest and the season of 
sowing, and when 'tis meet with oars to cut the faith- 
less sea, when to launch our rigged fleets, and when at 
the proper time to fell the pine tree in the woods : nor 
will you be disappointed, if you watch the setting and 
rising of the heavenly signs, and observe the year fairly 
divided by four distinct seasons." ..." Straightway, 
when winds arise, either the straits of the sea begin to 
swell with agitation, and a dry crash is heard on the 
high hills, or far in the distance the shores are filled 
with confused echoes, and the murmur of the woods 
thickens on the ear. The wave can but ill forbear to 
do a mischief to the crooked keels, even when gulls fly 
swiftly back from the high sea, sending their screams 
before them. . . . Oft too, when wind impends, you 
will see stars shoot headlong from the sky. . . . But 
when it lightens from the quarter of grim Boreas, and 
when the home of Eurus and Zephyrus thunders, then 
are the dykes filled and all the country is flooded, and 
every mariner out at sea furls his dripping sails. . . . 
The sun also, both when rising and when he hides 
himself beneath the waves, will give you signs ; in- 
fallible signs attend the sun ... a blue colour an- 
nounces rain, or fiery winds ; but if the spots begin to 
be mixed with glowing red, then you will see all nature 
rage with wind and stormy rain together. On such a 
night let no one advise me to venture on the deep, or 
pluck my cable from its mooring on the shore." 




AR has always been a great incen- 
tive to shipbuilding. But this 
statement requires modification 
by excluding both civil war and 
the merchant ship. Of the for- 
mer, no better instance could be 
found than the disastrous Wars 
of the Roses. Of the latter, the 
manner in which the Romans and 
others developed the war-galley 
at the neglect of the merchant 
ship is a clear example. 
The Vikings, too, were great warriors ; hence the 
wonderful development of their ships was for hostile 
purposes. But, unlike the Romans, they were equally 
distinguished as maritime explorers. And it is with 
their methods on the sea that we are now about to deal. 
They were so vigorous in their activities, so dauntless 
and daring, such genuinely strenuous shipmen that 
they were bound to do great things, or fail where none 
could have succeeded. " They had neither compass 
nor astronomical instruments," as Dr. Nansen reminds 
us, " nor any of the appliances of our time for finding 
their position at sea ; they could only sail by the sun, 
moon, and stars, and it seems incomprehensible how 
for days and weeks, when these were invisible, they 
were able to find their course through fog and bad 



weather. But they found it, and the open craft of the 
Norwegian Vikings, with their square sails, fared north 
and west over the whole ocean, from Novaya Zemlya 
and Spitzbergen to Greenland, Baffin's Bay, New- 
foundland, and North America, and over these lands 
and seas the Norsemen extended their dominion. It 
was not till five hundred years later that the ships of 
other nations were to make their way to the same 

That being so, how did these men succeed in making 
such long passages ? The lodestone or compass did not 
reach Norway until the thirteenth century. I think that 
before we attempt a more definite answer we should 
make a great allowance for that sea-sense which is 
partly inborn and partly obtained by the experience 
of long years. I remember once asking a man who 
had been skipper of a coaster, whose family had lived 
their lives on the sea or by it, whose brothers had gone 
down with their ships to the port whence there is no 
returning — how the captains of such craft managed. 
Had they any real knowledge of navigation ? " No, 
sir," my friend answered, " they're all mostly self- 
reliant." In other words, they have a rough knowledge 
of the problems, and the rest is instinct. Only the 
other day I was talking to yet another plain, seafaring 
man. I asked him how he and his mates managed to 
find their way in by night through a certain very tricky 
and unlighted channel that was full of dangers and 
scoured by a strong tide. It was the same answer. 
" They managed as best they could," relied on their 
instinct, sometimes made mistakes and got picked up, 
but on the whole succeeded in getting through. 

I suppose it was much the same with the Vikings. 
But with this exception : that, being unfettered by 

^ " Northern Mists : Arctic Exploration in Early Times/^ by Fridtjof 
Nansen, 2 vols. London, 1911. 



book-learning, they possessed the instinctive faculty 
more thoroughly. They knew the Scandinavian coast- 
line thoroughly well ; and long coasting voyages had 
taught them the configuration of other nations' shores. 
The rising and setting of the sun would assist them in 
clear weather, and the Pole-star at night. They were 
wont to carry in their ships a number of ravens, 
and when they were expecting soon to make a 
landfall and it was useless to climb the mast, they 
released these birds, which, flying high, spotted the 
distant shore and flew towards it. The Viking mariner 
could thus set his course to follow their direction of 

Of course, with such rough-and-ready methods they 
made egregious mistakes and sometimes found them- 
selves sailing in exactly the opposite direction to that 
desired, like some amateur yachtsmen who have sailed 
through the night by the wind and not known that the 
wind had veered several points. Dr. Nansen gives as 
an instance of a Viking's mistake that of Thorstein 
Ericson, who in starting from Greenland arrived off 
Iceland instead of America. And, be it added, there 
are plenty of well-found ships to-day, both sail and 
steam, which, in spite of all their sextants, their patent 
logs, and deep-sea sounding leads, have made landfalls 
miles off their course. 

Their sense of time, too, was another instinct which 
few of us possess to-day. " Several accounts show," 
says the same Scandinavian authority, " that on land 
the Scandinavians knew how to observe the sun accu- 
rately, in what quarter and at what time it set, how 
long the day or the night lasted at the summer or 
winter solstice, etc. From this they formed an idea of 
their northern latitude." It is just possible that they 
may even have understood how to take primitive 
measurements of the sun's altitude at noon with a 



species of quadrant. But it is not likely that during 
those long, early voyages they could have been able 
to take observations of this kind from their ships. 
Nor can they have understood how to reckon the 
latitude from such measurements except at the 
equinoxes and solstices. 

From the narrative of a voyage north of Baffin's Bay, 
about the year 1267, it appears that they endeavoured 
at sea to get an idea of the sun's altitude by observing 
where the shadow of the gunwale, on the side nearest the 
sun, fell on a man lying athwartships when the sun was in 
the south. This shows, at any rate, that the Norsemen 
did at least observe the sun's altitude. Even in thick 
weather they could get along satisfactorily provided 
that the wind did not shift and send them off their 
course. But if the breeze veered or backed a few points 
they would be heading unconsciously in the wrong 

The observations of birds were of no little assistance. 
If the haze hid the land off whose coasts they imagined 
themselves to be, they could observe the kind of bird 
which was flying around them. A flight of wild-fowl, a 
particular breed of sea-bird, the difference in the fauna, 
and so on, when off such coasts as Scotland, Ireland, 
Iceland, and Norway, could not fail to assist them 
greatly. It is true, also, that in their sailing directions 
they took notice of the whale. Thus, when sailing from 
Norway to Greenland one should keep at such a dis- 
tance to the southward of Iceland as to have birds and 
whales from thence. Similarly, the drift-ice, icebergs, 
driftwood, floating seaweed, the colour of the sea were 
all separate units in the whole method which enabled 
them to perform what they did. The Gulf Stream 
water, being of a purer blue than the greenish-brown 
water of the coastal current, must also have assisted 
them in their long voyages. Like the ancient seamen of 


the Mediterranean, they relied largely on the sounding 
lead, and there is a record that Ingolf and Hjorleif 
found Iceland " by probing the waves with the lead." 
As to the primitive method, referred to above, for 
finding the ship's latitude by observing the shadow of 
the gunwale, it has been suggested that they might 

Primitive Navigation of the Vikings. 
Finding the ship's latitude by the shadow of the gunwale. 

have measured the length of the shadow of the gunwale 
by marks on the thwart, and determined when the boat 
\siy on an even keel by means of a bowl of water. They 
could thus obtain a fairly trustworthy measurement of 
the sun's altitude. It has been thought possible that 
the Norwegians might have become acquainted with 



the hour-glass either from their voyages to Southern 
Europe, or else by plundering the monasteries. This 
would enable them to measure the length of day 
approximately, and so, taken in conjunction with the 
sun, be able to tell fairly correctly the direction of the 
cardinal points of the compass. 

There are some who scoft at the idea that the Vikings 
discovered North America. But there are first-rate 
authorities, among whom may be reckoned Dr. Nansen 
himself, who are quite convinced that these men did 
sail across the sea and land there. Certain incredulous 
people would have us believe that an open craft such 
as the Viking type would never last out a voyage 
like that across the Atlantic. But this supposition is 
immediately refuted by the Norse craft which was 
built on the lines and to the exact dimensions of the 
Gogstad Viking ship discovered in 1880. Rigged with 
a squaresail, with a jib added and without any other 
ship as convoy, this replica was sailed from Bergen to 
Newport, Rhode Island, in the year 1893. The voyage 
began on May 1, and the United States were reached 
on June 13. She was commanded by Captain Magnus 
Andersen, who had already, in 1886, crossed the Atlantic 
in an open boat. Although JDad weather was encountered, 
yet Captain Andersen and his crew of eleven men 
reached Newport in safety. His ship proved that the 
Viking type made a very fine seaboat, and further- 
more that she was fast even in the deep furrows of the 
ocean ; for she did an average of nine knots easily, but 
when the seas fitted her exactly she could reel off her 
eleven knots. 

For these old Vikings, intrepid mariners and pioneers 
of the sea, had by their skill and experience been able 
to develop an improved type of ship which combined 
the advantages of speed and seaworthiness. In such 
craft they voyaged to places as far apart as Palestine 


and Greenland. By their travels they completely 
changed the existing ideas of geography. When they 
ceased to make merely coasting voyages and took to 
the blue water, they were doing more than perhaps 
they realised. They crossed the North Sea to the 
Shetlands and Orkneys, to Britain and Ireland, to the 
Faroe Isles, to Iceland, to Greenland, and finally to 
America. Just exactly when first the Northmen 
crossed the North Sea cannot be determined ; but 
some authorities believe that it was undertaken before 
the Viking age. As early as the third century of the 
Christian era, the Eruli sailed from Scandinavia over 
the seas of Western Europe and ravaged Gaul and 
Spain, and even penetrated during the fifth century to 
the Mediterranean as far as Italy. During the sixth 
century the Vikings voyaged from Denmark to the 
land of the Franks, but the first Viking expedition 
began in a.d. 793. In the year 999, Leif, the son of 
Eric the Red, sailed from Greenland via the Hebrides 
to Norway. This is the first recorded time that such a 
lengthy sea voyage was attempted, for prior to this the 
journey had been made via Iceland. But it is also 
clear, from the sailing directions which have come 
down to us for navigating the northern waters, that 
voyages were made direct from Norway to Greenland. 
It was this same Leif who, in the year a.d. 1000, dis- 
covered America. 

The question must necessarily occur (as in the case 
of the circumnavigation of Africa by the Phoenicians) 
as to the means of provisioning these Viking ships for 
such lengthy cruises. If Captain Andersen and his men 
in 1893 were able to last out, there is no reason why 
the ancient Norsemen should not, even if we make 
some allowance for the modern advantages of preserved 
foods. We know very little as to the methods adopted 
to ensure adequate food-supplies, but we do know that 



bronze cooking vessels have been found which belonged 
to these craft. They used salt meat and salt fish, and 
these they could obtain by hunting and fishing in the 
neighbourhood of Iceland, Scotland, Greenland, and 
so on. Nansen asserts that they certainly took cattle 
with them on some voyages ; and they could also catch 
seals to keep the pot from running empty. In sheltered 
waters, such as the Norwegian fjords, when at anchor, 
the crew erected a triangular awning over the ship and 
turned-in in leather sleeping bags. 

But it is by making a careful study of the Sagas that 
we are able to get a true idea of the life and methods of 
these magnificent seamen, and from this source I 
propose to extract the following interesting data. In 
these heroic narratives there is much to interest the 
lover of the sea and ships. There is a continual 
clashing of shield and sword, a slatting of canvas and 
a splashing of oars, as the long-ships leap over the 
cold, silvery seas. The air is full of the deep-throated 
shouts of the sea-kings ; the horizon is bright with the 
coloured sails and the gilded prows. Every man is a 
picked fighter and seaman ; every craft a thing of 
beauty and of strength. There are the dark, cruel 
rocks, and the crimson blood of the vanquished, the 
sound of the waterfalls coming down from the cliffs, 
the fluttering of pennants, the hammering of the ship- 
wrights' men ashore, the cries of the women-folk as 
they behold the distant battles. There is nothing 
subtle in the picture ; the colours are laid thickly, and 
the tones are crude as a modern poster. But there is 
bravery and seamanship, and above all the sweet sea 
smell Avhich pervades these accounts and stirs the 
enthusiasm of the reader to its full extent. You feel 
as you read them that ships and men both seem to have 
been of the right stuff, that in those days there was a 
grandeur about the sea which not easily can be forgotten. 


The Scandinavians to this day remain, perhaps, the 
hardiest race of sailors to be found anywhere. They 
have penetrated to the neighbourhood of both poles, 
and they put to sea in such leaky, ill-found merchant 
ships year after year, that it makes you nervous to 
think of them battling against a breeze of wind in 
craft which have been condemned by most other 
nationalities. Even in the Viking days they were great 
seamen, without fear, unfaltering. But, like the South 
Europeans, they used to leave the sea alone during the 
winter, hauling their ships by rollers up the beach in 
the autumn, and then make them snug in their shed 
till the spring tempted them again to fit out. But 
Harald Hairfair is recorded as having set the example 
of remaining all winter afloat in his warships, a pro- 
ceeding which was quite contrary to the prevailing 

But there were other times when it was fortunate 
that this type of ship could be moved about so easily. 
For example, when King Harald had learnt that King 
Svein " was come before the mouth of the firth with a 
great host of ships," the former rowed his vessels in 
the evening to a narrow slip, and when it became dark 
he had the vessels unloaded and dragged them over 
the low land-neck before daybreak, and had " arrayed " 
the ships again, so that he was able to sail away to the 
nor'ard past Jutland, and thus escape out of the Danes' 
hands. And there are occasions on record when the 
Vikings dragged their ships for two miles over ice. 
They loved their ships, these men of the biting north, 
and even in the time of personal peril dreaded that 
their craft should fall into the hands' of the enemy. 
When Sigurd was being pursued by King Ingi he was 
careful to scuttle his ship before abandoning her. He 
" hewed off stem and stern of his ship, and sheared 
rifts therein and sank it in the innermost ^gis-firth." 



So, too, they would treat an enemy's ship. Thus 
Erling Askew " fared away from the land," " arrayed 
them for a Jerusalem-faring and fared west over sea to 
Orkney," and so to the Mediterranean, where they 
lighted upon a dromon and attacked her by cutting 
rifts in her side below, as well as above, the water- 
mark — " hewed windows " in her, as the old Saga 
realistically has it. 

They were masters of cunning, too. Harek of 
Thiotta was coming along one evening with his fleet 
*' with the wind blowing a breeze. Then he let strike 
sail and mast, and take down the vane, and wrap all 
the ship above the water in grey hangings, and let men 
row on a few benches fore and aft, but let most of the 
men sit low in the ship." This somewhat puzzled King 
Knut's men, who wondered what ship it could be, for 
they saw only few men and little rowing. Moreover, 
she seemed to be grey and untarred, " like a ship 
bleached by the sun, and withal they saw that the ship 
was much low in the water. But when Harek came 
forth into the sound past the host, he let raise the mast 
and hoist sail, and let set up gilded vanes, and the sail 
was white as snowdrift, and done with red and blue 

And here is another instance where the ships kept 
afloat during the winter. The passage is interesting as 
showing that they shortened sail by taking in a reef : 
" On Thomas-mass [December 21], before Yule, the 
King put out of the haven, there being a right good 
fair wind somewhat sharp. So then they sailed north 
coasting Jadar ; the weather was wet, and some fog 
driving about." But Erling Skialgson sailed after him, 
and because his long-ships went faster than the others, 
" he let reef the sail and waited for his host." But 
Olaf's ships " were very water-logged and soaked." 
" He let call from ship to ship that men should lower 


the sails and somewhat slowly, and take one reef out 
of them." They slacked away the halyards, then 
tucked in a reef, and then doubtless sweated up the 
yard again. 

In reading these Sagas, it is necessary to understand 
the different species of craft which the Norsemen 
employed. Firstly, there were the warships or dragons. 
Secondly, there were the long serpent or snake class, 
which also were men-of-war. Thirdly, there were ships 
of burden, ocean-going merchantmen, fishing boats, 
and small fry. The long-ship, which was a man-of-war, 
was not suitable for freight-carrying on those trading 
voyages to Ireland and elsewhere. But the kaupskip, 
broad of beam and with ample freeboard, was built 
for service on the island-sheltered waters of Norway 
and the Baltic. So also the knorr, which was used for 
both ocean trading and overseas warfare, was wont to 
sail as far away as to the Orkneys. Such a type was so 
big that she could carry 150 men. It should be borne 
in mind that this was essentially a sailing ship, while the 
long-ship was more for rowing. The smallest of the 
long-ships were of twenty-five benches, i.e. for a crew 
of fifty oarsmen ; in other words, about the same as a 
Roman penteconter. Some, however, were fitted with 
only twenty benches for forty oars. The skuta type of 
warship rowed from fifteen to twenty oars aside, but 
the snekkja, or long serpent class, carried from twenty 
to thirty aside, and the skeid from thirty to thirty-five 
aside. The word " skeid " signifies originally that it 
was a craft built of split wood, or strake-built. This 
expression was used doubtless in contradistinction to 
the craft which were merely hollowed out from the 
tree. Sigurd, after scuttling his ships, caused Finns 
to build him two cutters sinew-bound, which had no 
nails therein but had withies for knees. These craft 
could each row a dozen men a side. They were so 



fast that no ship could overtake them. The dragon 
type was so called from the dragon's head at the stem- 
head, and the animal's tail which ended the ship as 
the lotus-bud was wont on the ancient Egyptian craft. 
The earliest mention of the dragon type dates from 
A.D. 868. 

There was a craft named the Crane, which was a 
long-ship of the snekkja type. She was high in the 
stem, not beamy, carried thirty benches for her rowers, 
aud had been constructed for the use of King Olaf 
Tryggvison during the autumn of 998. But the ship 
which became a prototype and was the envy of all 
that beheld her, was a vessel presently to be named the 
Long Worm. Let me tell the story thus : One winter 
King Olaf gave the order for her to be constructed, 
and there, under the Ladir cliffs in the cold, bracing 
air, the shipmen set to work. " Much greater it was 
than other ships," records the Saga, " that were then 
in the land, and yet are the slips whereon it was built 
left there for a token^ ; seventy-and-four ells of grass- 
lying keel was it.^ Thorberg Shavehewer was the 
master-smith of that ship, but there were many others 
at work : some to join, some to chip, some to smite 
rivets, some to fit timbers. . . . Long was that ship, 
and broad of beam, high of bulwark, and great in the 
scantling. But now when they were gotten to the free- 
board Thorberg had some needful errand that took 
him home to his house, and he tarried there very long, 
and when he came back the bulwark was all done. 
Now the king went in the eventide, and Thorberg 
with him to look on the ship, and see how the ship 
showed, and every man said that never yet had they 
seen a long-ship so great or so goodly : and so the king 
went back to the town." 


^ That is to say they were still existing about a.d. 1180. 
* That is to say 148 feet ; grass-lying means straight. 


But early next morning, when the king and Thor- 
berg returned to the ship, and the smiths were aheady 
there, the latter stood doing nothing. They exclaimed 
that the ship was spoilt, for some man had evidently 
gone round from stem to stern cutting notches with an 
axe along the gunwale. The king was exceedingly 
angry, and promised punishment if the offender should 
be found out. Thereupon, to the surprise of all, Thor- 
berg instantly owned up as being himself the culprit, 
and he set about planing all the notches out of the 
gunwale. He went round the side which had been 
notched with his pattern, but when he had done so, it 
was generally agreed that the notching, far from being 
a disfigurement, was in fact an ornament. The king 
decided that Thorberg's pattern was an improvement, 
so his anger ceased, and he bade him to do the same 
ornamentation along the other side. 

This dragon-ship, built after the manner of the 
Worm which the king had got from Halogaland, was a 
far more excellent and larger ship than the model ; so 
he named one the Long Worm and the other the Short 
Worm, On this great vessel were thirty-four benches for 
the oarsmen. She was most beautifully finished off 
with all the affectionate care and pride which only a 
Viking could bestow on a ship. Done all over with 
gold, with bulwarks as high as on a ship built for 
sailing the " main sea," this Long Worm was the marvel 
of her age. " The best wrought and the most costly 
was that ship of any that have been in Norway." Wolf 
the Red was the man who had the honoured post of 
bearing King Olaf's banner in the prow of that ship. 
Around this valiant standard-bearer were four men to 
fight for that flag. And the crew were as notable as 
their ship. As she excelled all other craft, so they 
excelled all other men. They were picked men, every 
one of them, reputed to be famous for " godliness and 

H 97 


might and stout heart." With their gleaming shields 
and fine stature they took up their allotted positions. 
Looking down the ship from bow to stern, there were 
the standard-bearer and his company in the prow. 
Then abaft of them were a dozen forecastle men ready 
to resist any enemy who thought he might board the 
Norse ship at that critical part. Next came the thirty 
forehold men, astern of whom were another company 
in the mainhold. " Eight men there to a half -berth in 
the Worm, all chosen man by man." At the poop was 
the commander, and immediately below him was the 
ship's arsenal, where the arms were kept ready for 
immediate service. 

But the coming of the Long Worm was not to be 
taken lightly. There was some other whom she had 
moved to jealousy. " King Harald sat that winter in 
Nidoyce," says the Saga. " He let build a ship that 
winter out at Eres that was a buss-ship. This craft 
was fashioned after the waxing of the Long Worm, and 
done most heedfully in all wise. There was a drake- 
head forward, and a crooked tail aft, and the bows of 
her were all adorned with gold. It was of thirty-five 
benches, and big thereto, and the bravest of keels it 
was. All the outfit of the ship the king let be made 
at the heedfullest, both sails and running-tackle, 
anchors, and cables." 

And there were others whose ships were a source of 
wonder and of admiration. King Knut " himself had 
that dragon, which was so mickle that it told up sixty 
benches, and on it were heads gold-bedight. Earl 
Hakon had another dragon that had a tale of forty 
benches. Thereon also were gilt heads ; but the sails 
of both were banded of blues and red and green. These 
ships were all stained above the water-line." Very 
keen were these North-men in using the sea as well for 
pleasure as for service. " Now on a fair day of spring- 

Anchor of Oseberg Viking Ship. 

Primitive Blocks and Tackle 


Rowlock on a Viking Ship. Fastenings of a Viking Ship. 

A leather thong was passed through the 
hole to keep the oar from unshipping. 


tide was Harek at home, and few men with him at the 
stead, and the time hung heavy on his hands. So 
Sigurd spake to him, saying that if he will, they will go 
a-rowing somewhither for their disport. That liked 
Harek well : so they go down to the strand, and launch 
a six-oarer, and Sigurd took from the boathouse sail 
and gear that went with the craft ; for such-wise oft 
they fared to take the sail with them when they rowed 
for their disport. Then Harek went aboard the boat 
and shipped the rudder. . . . Now before they went 
aboard the craft they cast into her a butter-keg and 
bread basket, and bare between them a beer-cask 
down to the boat. Then they rowed away from land ; 
but when they were come a little way from the isle, 
then the brethren hoisted sail and Harek steered, and 
they speedily made way from the isle." 

Both ships and gear were frequently stored in sheds. 
There is an account of a man who " went down to the 
water and took the ship of burden which he owned, 
and King Olaf had given him, and ran out the craft ; 
but all the gear appertaining to it was there in the 
ship-house." And again, one of the North-men remarks : 
" The ship of burden which I have had this while, and 
here stands in her shed, methinks it is now become so 
ancient that she rots under her tar." They hauled 
these great ships ashore to the sheds by means of 
rollers : 

" . . . heard how the boardlong 
Dane-ships o'er the well-worn rollers 
In the south were run out seaward . . ." 

so sings one of the Sagas. " After Easter," runs 
another of these narratives, " the king let run out his 
ships, and bear thereto rigging and oars. He let deck 
the ships, and tilt them and bedight them : he let ships 
float thus arrayed by the gangways." For it was the 

%.'>'•; ; 

> . . , 
1 ■,' ' 


fitting-out season, you will realise. The word tilt 
signifies tent. " He let deck " does not mean quite 
what it would convey to modern minds ; all that it 
indicates is that he replaced the floor-boards, which had 
been removed at the end of the previous season so that 
the air could get down below to the ship. Nor does 
gangway convey the exact definition. It means nothing 
more than the pier or jetty alongside which the ships 
were moored after fitting out. 

The naval tactics of these men consisted in laying 
their craft alongside the enemy, boarding him, and 
then slashing away at the latter and hewing off the 
figurehead or the tail of his ship as trophies. As they 
approached, they threw grappling anchors into the 
other vessel, just as they were wont to fight in the 
Mediterranean. Thus there is a reference to the incident 
when " the forecastle men of the Long Worm and the 
Short Worm and the Crane cast anchors and grapplings 
on to the ships of King Svein." And this method 
survived in Northern Europe right through the Middle 
Ages. When they boarded a ship they did their best 
to " clear " the ship by cutting dov/n the defenders, or 
driving them overboard or else into other ships. That 
was their main objective — to get the ship to themselves. 
" Now in those days," says one of the Sagas, " the 
wont was when men fought a-shipboard, to bind the 
ships together and fight from the forecastle." " Now 
the most defence on the Worm, and the most murderous 
to men was of those of the forehold and the forecastle, 
for in either place was the most chosen folk and the 
bulwark highest." And again — " Erling Askew set 
upon the ship of King Hakon, and shoved his prow in 
betwixt it and Sigurd's ship, and then befell the battle. 
But the ship of Gregory was swept aground, and heeled 
over much, so at first they gat them not into the onset." 

The flagship of King Olaf at the battle of Nesiar, 



in the year 1016, had on the stem a carved head of 
the king which he himself had fashioned. " That head 
was long sithence in Norway used on ships which 

Vikings boarding an Enemy. 

chieftains steered." At this battle the king had a 
crew of a hundred in his ship, and most of them carried 
white shields " with the holy cross laid thereon in gold^ 


while some were drawn with red stone or blue ; a cross 
withal he had let draw in white on the brow of all 
helms. He had a white banner, and that was a worm. 
Thereafter he let blow^ the war-blast, and they set off 
out of the harbour, roAving in search of the earl." . . . 
" The king's men caught the beaks of the [enemy's] 
ships with grapnels, and thus held them fast. Then 
the earl cried out that the forecastlemen should hew 
off the beaks, and even so they did." 

Ten years later this same Olaf was the owner of a 
vessel named the Bison, which was " the greatest of all 
ships," " which he had let make the winter before." 
On her prow " was a bison-head dight in gold." Aft 
there was a tail, and the head, the tail, and both beaks 
were all laid with gold. She was a big craft, for she 
rowed more than sixty men. Arrows and swords were 
the weapons with which the Norsemen fought, and 
the chests or lockers were kept well filled for the fray. 
" King Olaf Tryggvison stood on the poop of the Worm, 
and shot full oft that day, whiles with the bow and 
whiles with javelins, and ever twain at once. . . . 
Then went the king down into the forehold, and un- 
locked the chest of the high-seat ; and took thence 
many sharp swords and gave them to his men." For 
the poop consisted of a section of the ship with a floor 
above the ordinary deck, and commanded a view over 
the whole of the ship. Valiant were the fights often 
enough, but there were occasions when the contest was 
so unequal that there was no alternative but to flee. 
They would then throw overboard rafts with clothes 
and precious articles heaped on the top in hopes that, 
by attracting the cupidity of their pursuers, they 
themselves would succeed in getting away scot-free. 

The capture of the ship Worm — this was the Little 
Worm, and not her bigger sister — happened on this 
wise : King Olaf stood to the northward sailing with 



the land abroad. Wherever he went ashore he christened 
the unbaptised. The time came when he turned his 
ships to the southward, but it came to pass that then 
he was harassed by " a driving storm with brine spray 
down the firth." Finally, he spoke to Bishop Sigurd, 
and asked him if he knew of any remedy. The bishop 
answered that he would do what he could, provided 
God would strengthen his hands to overcome the might 
of these weather fiends. The picture which the Saga 
suggests is one that I believe has never yet been at- 
tempted by any artist, but there is a fine subject for 
anyone who could depict the northern blue mists, the 
high rocks, the sea, the great assembly of Viking ships 
and men, the bright colours contrasted with the sombre 
hues of atmosphere, the bishop in his vestments sur- 
rounded by these stalwart storm warriors. " So took 
Bishop Sigurd all his mass-array and went forth on to 
the prow of the king's ship, and let kindle the candles, 
and bore incense. Then he set up the rood in the prow 
of the ship, and read out the gospel and many prayers, 
and sprinkled holy water over all the ship. Then he 
bade unship the tilt and row in up the firth." There- 
upon all the other ships followed the lead, and lo, as 
soon as the men in the Crane began to row, the crew 
felt no wind whatever. The driving storm was gone. 
In that sudden calm the fleet rowed quietly the one 
ship astern of the other, and so they arrived at God 
Isles. There they came upon Raud the Unchristened, 
and he was put to death with little enough mercy. His 
dragon-ship was captured, and Olaf called her the 
Worm — the Little Worm — " because when the sail was 
aloft then should that be as the wings of the dragon. 
The fairest of all Norway was that ship." 

The Viking ships had no use for head winds. " But 
when they sought east into the Wick," runs the narra- 
tive elsewhere, " they got foul winds and big, and lay- 


to in havens wide about, both in the out-isles and in 
up the firths." Dr. Eirikr Magnusson^ beheves that the 
Halogalanders were in the art of navigation far ahead 
of the more southerly Norwegians about the year 
A.D. 1000 ; and interprets the following to indicate 
this much. For myself, I have a vague suspicion that 
it may signify not so much navigation as seamanship, 
and that it means that Raud understood the art of 
beating to windward. No doubt these squaresail craft 
would not haul any nearer to the wind than seven 
points, but these ships were in no great hurry to make 
quick passages. They could go about on the other 
tack and so have — to quote the Saga's expression — 
the wind " at will." This is the statement under 
discussion : " Raud rowed out to sea with his dragon, 
and so let hoist sail ; for ever had he wind at will 
whithersoever he would sail, which thing came from 
his wizardry." It seems to me that this is exactly 
explained by beating to windward when the breeze 
headed them. 

The squaresail was hoisted by the halyard, and the 
yard was kept to the mast by means of parrals {rakki). 
The sail when hoisted was said to be " topped," while 
its straining at the halyard was poetically alluded to as 
" wrangling with the tackle." " Topped sails with 
tackle wrangled," is a sentence found among the 
Heimskringla. There is more than one illuminating 
reference to the sails of the Norsemen which can claim 
our attention. " But as they hauled up the sail the 
halliard broke asunder, and down came the sail athwart 
the ship, and a long while Thorir and his must needs 
tarry there, or ever they got up their sail a second 

1 See "The Saga Library/' edited by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson. 
London, 1905. I am indebted to this edition for the extracts which I here make 
from the Sagas, and also for some valuable matter given in the notes to that 



time." It is true that the Vikings reHed considerably 
on their oars, but for long passages it is unquestionable 
that their large squaresail was their main means of 
propulsion. Thus, for example, a fleet might sail to 
the fjord under sail-power to meet their enemies, but 
the sail would be lowered before the fight. The oar 
was kept in position against the thole-pin, and pre- 
vented from slipping along the gunwale by means of a 
strap, and the sixty odd rowers, with their fine physical 
strength and healthy endurance, could make these 
easy-lined craft leap across the waves with a speed fully 
equal to that which their coloured sails could give to 
them. There is more than one reference, too, to the 
different hues of these sails then prevailing in Northern 
Europe, the " English king Knut " having blue sails 
on the yard of each of his ships. 

When they voyaged there was nothing of the modern 
hurry of seafaring life. They were not compelled to 
perform a certain passage within a specified number of 
days, and they could wait as long as their commanders 
wished for a fair wind to spring up. " After that King 
Sigurd fared to his ships, and made ready to leave 
Jerusalem-land. They sailed north to that island 
which hight Cyprus, and there King Sigurd dwelt 
somewhile and fared sithence to Greekland, and laid- 
to all his host off Angelness, and lay there for half a 
month. And every day was a fair breeze north along 
the main; but he willed to bide such a wind as should 
be a right side-wind, so that sails might be set end-long 
of the ship, for all his sails were set with pall, both fore 
and aft : for this reason, that both they who were 
forward, as well as they who were aft, would not to 
look on the unfair sails." The meaning of this ex- 
pression is quite obvious to a seaman. Sigurd clearly 
wanted to make his voyage with the wind in such a 
direction that it was abeam rather than dead aft. The 


logical inference from this extract is that his ships 
sailed best on a broad reach rather than when running 
free. And if we may judge from the lines and dimen- 
sions of those Viking ships which have been unearthed 
in Scandinavia in such wonderful preservation, it is 
quite certain that these long, straight-keeled craft 
would be very fast on a wind. 

And how were they steered ? The rudder was 
placed on the starboard side, the round top of it being 
secured to the gunwale by means of a loop which one 
may call the rudder-strap. At a proper distance down, 
says Dr. Magnusson, a cone-shaped piece of wood was 
nailed to the side of the boat, the top of the cone being 
plumb with the outside of the gunwale. Through the 
rudder, where it took the form of a broad oar-blade a 
hole was made corresponding to one through the cone- 
shaped piece of wood which went right through the 
side of the boat. A cord drawn through the hole in the 
rudder and the conic piece of wood, and made fast 
within board, gave to the rudder a fixed position. By 
loosening the cord the rudder could be lifted at will 
and taken inboard. Through the neck of the rudder a 
square hole was made, into which fitted the end of the 
tiller, by means of which the helmsman moving it 
towards him starboarded the rudder, and ported it by 
performing the exact opposite. 

There was a plank at the back of the seat of the 
helmsman against which he could steady himself in 
handling the helm, just as many a steersman on small 
craft to-day get support for controlling the tiller in a 
seaway. This was known as the " staying board." 
Thus " Einar shot at Earl Eric, and the arrow smote 
the tiller-head above the head of the earl, and went in 
up to the shaft binding. The earl looked thereon, and 
asked if they wist who shot ; and even therewith came 
another arrow so nigh that it flew betwixt the earl's 



side and his arm, and so on to the staying-board of the 
steersman, and the point stood far beyond." 

We must picture in our minds the Norse steersman 
sitting with his face to the starboard side, his hand on 
the tiller. The stjornbordi — or steering side — was the 
starboard. The bakbordi was the port side. Why 
bakbordi ? Because it was the board at the back of the 
helmsman when he sat looking to starboard or steering 
side. And so to this day, although no longer a ship 
has her rudder at the side, yet the right-hand side of a 
ship is always the starboard. 

Notwithstanding the curious fact that in certain 
parts of Europe, at an extraordinarily early date, chain 
cables were actually in use, yet it is quite clear that 
those of the Viking ships were of rope. These cables 
were twisted round the beaks of the ships, the beaks 
consisting of pieces of timber placed upright in and 
about the prow of the ship. They were similar to the 
bitts such as you see in a modern lifeboat or yacht. 
So, whenever the Viking vessel was at anchor, or she 
was lashed alongside her enemy in pitched battle, the 
cable of the anchor or the grapnel was made fast to 
these timbers. In the account of the flight of Earl 
Svein, it is recorded that " when the earl saw to how 
hopeless a pass things were come, he called upon his 
forecastle men to cut the cables and let loose the ships, 
and even so they did. Then the king's men caught the 
beaks of the ships with grapnels, and thus held them 
fast. Then the earl cried out that the forecastlemen 
should hew off the beaks, and even so they did." And 
again : " Einar Thambarskelfir had laid his ship on 
the other board of that of the earl, and his men threw 
an anchor into the prow of the earl's ship, and thus 
they all drifted together into the firth ; and after that 
the whole host of the earl took to flight, and rowed out 
into the firth." 


Ships might not bring-up where they hked. There 
was decided precedence among the Norsemen, as will be 
observed from the following incident : " On a summer 
Earl Hakon had out his fleet, and Thorleif the Sage was 
master of a ship therein. Of that company also was 
Eric, the earl's son, who was as then ten or eleven 
winters old. So, whenever they brought-to in havens 
at night-tide, nought seemed good to Eric but to moor 
his ship next to the earl's ship. But when they were 
come south to Mere, thither came Skopti, the earl's 
brother-in-law, with a long-ship all manned ; but as 
they rowed up to the fleet, Skopti called out to Thorleif 
to clear the haven for him, and shift his berth. Eric 
answered speedily, bidding Skopti take another berth. 
That heard Earl Hakon, how Eric his son now deemed 
himself so mighty that he would not give place to 
Skopti. So the earl called out straightway, and bade 
them leave their berth, saying that somewhat worser 
lay in store for them else, to wit, to be beaten. So 
when Thorleif heard that, he cried out to his men to 
shp their cables ; and even so was it done. And 
Skopti lay in the berth whereas he was wont, next to 
the earl's ship to wit." 

There were a number of small row-boats employed 
by the Vikings, the size of which did not allow of more 
than six oarsmen. No doubt these were employed for 
going ashore when the big ships lay some distance from 
the shore. But often the Viking craft lay alongside 
piers. " Gunnstein said that now was the turn of the 
tide, and it was time to sail. Therewith they drew in 
their cables. ... In this they fared on until they 
came to Geirsver, the first place where, coming from 
the north, one may lie at a pier. Thither they came 
both one day at eve, and lay in haven there off the 
pier." The mention is also made of gangways for 
getting on board from the shore. 



But sometimes they lay moored stem and stern in 
much the same fashion as the ancient Greeks were wont. 
They let go their bow anchors in deep water, veered 
out cable, took a line ashore from the stern, and then, 
each ship having done this, the whole fleet were lashed 
up together side by side just as to-day you often see a 
whole fleet of fishermen tethered in a small harbour. 
There are several passages in the Sagas which call 
attention to the manner in which their ships were 
moored. " Forthwith when Karli, and his, got aboard 
their ship, they swept off the tilts, and cast off the 
moorings ; then they drew up sail, and the ship soon 
sped off into the main." Or again . . . "said they had 
seen King Hakon's host, and all the arrayal thereof; 
said that they were lying up by the stakes and had 
moored their sterns to the stakes ; they have two east- 
faring keels, and have laid them outermost of all the 
ships ; on these keels are masthead castles, and castles 
withal in the prow of them both." 

This last quotation, belonging to the twelfth century, 
has reference to the mode of fighting which was in 
vogue during the Middle Ages, when the fighting tops, 
the castellated structures at both bow and stern, were 
such significant features on these long, narrow ships. 
The word "keel" is used not, of course, in reference to 
any particular portion of the ship's structure, but to 
the ship as a whole. The word is still in active use 
to-day on the Humber as applied to a species of craft 
which, with its large squaresail as its only canvas, 
bears some similarity to the old Norse ceols or keels. 

The crews of these ships slept under those " tilts " 
or awnings which were spread across the ship in an in- 
verted V-shape. In harbour the tilts were spread over 
the entire vessel. But in less sheltered anchorages, 
and when at sea, tilts were rigged over only portions of 
the ship to afford sufficient protection to the men. 


But in all cases these tilts or tjalds were struck before 
the ship went into action, for the obvious reason that it 
was desirable to have the entire ship clear for fighting. 
The food-supplies, both solid and fluid, were carried in 

Viking Ship with Awning up ready for the Night. 

casks, and the mess system is well described in one of 
the Sagas entitled " The Story of the Ere-Dwellers." 
" In those days," runs the narrative, " was it the wont 
of chapmen to have no cooks, but the messmates chose 



by lot amongst themselves who should have the ward 
of the mess day by day. Then, too, was it the wont of 
all the midshipmen to have their drink in common, 
and a cask should stand by the mast with the drink 
therein, and a locked lid was over it. But some of the 
drink was in tuns, and was added to the cask thence 
as soon as it was drunk out." 

We know nothing as to whether these Norse ships 
possessed bilge pumps. The probability is that they 
did not, but a bailing butt was certainly part of their 
inventory. Evidently there was a well some distance 
aft, into which any water shipped was allowed to drain 
and thence bailed out, as the reader shall presently see 
from the following quotation. The description refers 
to the time when King Harald manned his new dragon- 
galley. " The said dragon he manned with his court- 
guard and bareserks," runs the Saga. " The stem men 
were the men most tried, because they had with them 
the king's banner ; aft from the stem to the bailing place 
was the forecastle, and that was manned by the bare- 
serks. Those only could get court-service with King 
Harald who were men peerless both of strength and 
good heart and all prowess ; with such only was his 
ship manned." 

Each oarsman had about three and a half feet to 
work in. There is more than one reference in these 
Sagas to the beds and berths on the Viking ships. 
" When the ship of Magnus was much ridded, and he 
was lying in his berth," etc. In the ships of war the 
rowing benches did not stretch right across the vessel, 
as this would interfere with the mobility of the fighting 
men, who must needs be left free to rush forward or aft 
as the case might be during the battle. The oarsmen 
therefore had each a bench just roomy enough to sit 
down and do their work whilst pulling at the oar. 
Little enough is told us of the commander, but we 


know that in the ship's inventory was inckided his 
mess-table or " meat-board." 

They were strong of body, these Norsemen, hke their 
ships, brave and valiant fighters, and they were not 
altogether bereft of wit, as for instance when, wishing 
to convey an insult, someone fashioned an anchor from 
a piece of cheese, and said that " such would hold the 
ships of Norway's king." They were adaptable, too, 
as in such cases when they readily took their anchors 
ashore, bound them to long staves, and employed them 
for razing an enemy's wall to the ground. But, most 
of all, they were seamen of the very finest type which 
the world has ever seen. 




[HEN we consider all the wondrous 
achievements on the part of the 
Ancients, when we consider how 
many centuries they were en- 
gaged in maritime matters, it is 
a matter for some surprise that, 
with the exception of what was 
done by the Phoenicians, there was 
practically no maritime discovery 
made by them. They were con- 
tent with the limitations of the 
Mediterranean, and beyond the 
Gaditan Straits they did not venture. 

At first sight it certainly is a little strange. But the 
reason is quite obvious. Their seamanship was good 
enough, but their navigation was of an inferior order. 
The Romans, for example, were not geographers, and 
without some knowledge of geography even the crudest 
navigational methods lose their value. Among the 
Greeks and Romans there existed curious and uncer- 
tain ideas concerning the earth. Some thought that it 
floated on the water like a bowl. Some believed that 
it was like to a column or stone pillar ; others that it 
was hollow as a dish. Some said it was as flat as a 
table ; some that its shape was similar to a drum. So 
with all these conflicting ideas there was no accurate 
knowledge of the world. 


Further, though there were astronomers, yet they 
were incompetent and of Uttle value from a practical 
point of view. Lastly, the ancients had yet to learn 
the essential value of the loadstone. Hence their 
mariners were not fitted for such long voyages as were 
to be made later on by the Portuguese. The early 
Mediterranean mariners were efficient so long as they 
kept within the confines of their own enormous lake, 
for their voyaging was practically coastal. Even when 
they had to sail North and South they had such places 
as Rhodes to enable them to break their journey and 
make a good departure from. They could never lose 
themselves for long, for they knew the aspect of the 
various promontories and bays. They could " smell " 
their way through most channels even when the light 
failed them. And remember, too, that theirs were not 
big ships if compared with the caravels which were 
to come later. There were plenty of oarsmen in the 
warships if it became necessary to claw off a lee- 
shore, and these shallow-draught vessels could float 
in the most shallow channels. 

But if they had been called upon to cross the Atlantic 
or, rounding the South of Africa, traverse the Indian 
Ocean, they would have soon lost themselves when out 
of sight of land for many days ; so they kept to their 
own sea and left the discovering of the world to others 
who should come centuries later. Hipparchus had 
been the first to make a catalogue of the stars about 
the year 150 B.C. Pass over a somewhat barren in- 
terval till you come to the year a.d. 150 and you find 
Ptolemy correcting the tables of Hipparchus. In 
Ptolemy we have the summit of classical knowledge 
as reached during the times of the ancients. His 
account of the universe and the movements of the 
heavenly bodies had a great influence on the sea- 
farers in the Middle Ages, and so on the world's dis- 



coveries. Now Ptolemy's geography was based for 
the most part on " itineraries." These, in modern 
parlance, were simply guide-books for travellers : that 
is to say, they consisted of tables and routes showing 
the stopping-places. Such data as these afforded had 
been obtained for the most part from military cam- 
paigns — especially Roman — and from the voyages made 
by sailors, but also from merchants. 

Ptolemy made a wonderful improvement in carto- 
graphical representation by introducing correction with 
converging meridians, this method having been com- 
menced by Hipparchus. But Ptolemy was singularly 
fortunate to have been living at the time when the 
Roman Empire was at its height, and so enabled to 
obtain a mass of geographical details through the ex- 
tensive administration of this far-reaching dominion. 

In Northern Europe the mists had not yet cleared. 
It was a long time before they did. It is not till the 
eighth century of our era that there is any certain 
mention in literature concerning the voyaging to the 
Arctic Circle. This was when the good monks from 
Ireland discovered the Faroe Isles and Iceland after 
setting forth across the sea, and settled down there, 
baptising the inhabitants and teaching them Chris- 
tianity. Indirectly, they were doing more than this : 
they were linking up one portion of world that was 
unknown to or by the other. Already King Arthur, 
by his conquest of Scandinavia, Ireland, Gothland, 
Denmark, and other northern territories, had caused 
an addition to geographical knowledge by intercom- 
munication. " Now at length," to quote Hakluyt, 
" they are incorporated with us by the receiving of our 
religion and sacraments, and by taking wives of our 
nation, and by affinitie, and mariages." 

Add to these the northern voyages of Octher, King 
Edgar, together with the frequent raids of the Norsemen 


and the increasing number of missionaries, and it is 
easy to see the world's geographical knowledge accumu- 
lating. But these, again, were mostly coasting voyages ; 
or, at any rate, the voyagers were not out of sight of land 
for many days. The Norse discoveries are, in fact, the 
first great achievement of the western maritime world 
between the time of Constantine and the first Crusade. 
We have already alluded so fully to their seamanship 
that it remains only to remind the reader that as early 
as A.D. 787 they had landed in our country ; in 874 
had begun to colonise Iceland ; in 877 had sighted 
Greenland ; and in 888, or thereabouts, had reached the 
White Sea. In Southern Europe there was nothing 
comparable to this. Notwithstanding that the work- 
manship of the Italian shipbuilders was as good as, if not 
better than, the work of the Norsemen ; notwith- 
standing, also, that the latter were further away from 
civilisation and scientific knowledge, yet for all that 
the Vikings were peering into the Unknown World, 
while the Southerners were content to leave the curtain 
to hide a little longer the wonders of the universe irom 
the eyes of mankind. 

As we look at the manner in which the world has 
been opened out, discovered, revealed, linked up, we 
shall find that this was brought about as follows : The 
Southerners, then, were too content with their Mediter- 
ranean to leave it in quest of other seas, while the 
Vikings were exactly the reverse in their own sphere. 
Then comes the influence of Christian devotion. Not 
merely the missionaries, but the bands of pilgrims 
begin for the first time in their lives to travel long 
distances. The Crusades astound the Crusaders them- 
selves. They marvel at the possibilities of the world. 
A permanent link is forged between the North and the 
near East. The Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean 
are accomplished in safety. Why should they not 



come back again, after their vows have been filled, to 
trade ? They have fought, they have said their prayers. 
Why might they not buy and sell ? Thus there is 
formed a connection between the Levant and England 
which time was to develop. 

We see, then, the merchants of the world getting 
restless for greater wealth : anxious for new markets 
for their wares, new places whence to gather fresh im- 
ports. Owing to the natural dread of the sea the land 
routes were frequently patronised in preference to the 
sea lanes, though this was not always. Now the great 
treasure-house of the world in men's estimation lay 
in India. There was to be found a rich store of com- 
modities, so thither merchants repaired by the long 
overland routes. But there was a growing feeling 
among the Genoese, the Venetians, and the Spanish 
that there ought to be a sea path to India just as there 
was to Northern Europe. There was a great risk at- 
tached to the present method of bringing goods across 
from India by land. There was the risk of pilfering 
or of bandits, besides the great cost of transportation. 
Furthermore, these sons of the Catholic Church longed 
to crush the power of Islam, longed to place the ruling 
of the world in the hands of a Christian Empire. It is 
necessary to bear in mind this potent desire to find 
a sea route to India, because by this desire was given 
an impetus which not only revealed India to seamen, 
but unfolded the New World in the Western Hemi- 
sphere. As far back as the year a.d. 1281, Vivaldi set 
forth from Genoa in his fruitless endeavour to reach the 
Indies via the west coast of Africa ; so also Malocello 
had sailed as far as the Canary Isles about the year 
1270 ; and there were numbers of other gallant adven- 
turers who had started forth optimistically. But the 
sea route to India had not yet been ploughed by the 
ships of men. 


Meanwhile there arrived on the scene the best friend 
mariner ever had. Up till now the compass had not been 
used. It is possible and extremely probable that from 
very early times the Chinese understood the communi- 
cating of the magnetic fluid to iron, and the marvel- 
lous and mysterious power which that iron possesses 
when thus magnetised. One may take it that the 
Chinese introduced this notion to the famous Arabian 
seamen sailing betw^een the Far East and the east 
coast of Africa. Thus, via the Red Sea, this information 
of the utility of the magnetised needle for the use of 
seamen was brought into Europe. Prior to the tenth 
century the invention had gone no further than plac- 
ing a bar of magnetised iron in the arms of a wooden 
figure on a pivot. In China the South took the place 
of North, and the former was indicated by the out- 
stretched hand of the little man erected on the prow 
of the vessel, or by the bar of pulverised iron which the 
image held like a spear in its hands. With such mag- 
netic indications the Chinese from the third century a.d. 
voyaged from Canton to Malabar and the Persian Gulf. 

By the second decade of the twelfth century the 
Chinese were using the water-compass. It was not 
seen in Europe till about the year 1190 ; or rather it is 
not mentioned till about that date. What is most 
probable is the suggestion that the sailors of Northern 
Europe first saw it at the time of the Crusades, and 
took back to their own ports the idea which the Arabian 
dhow skippers had employed for so many years in 
navigating the Indian Ocean. There is a clear reference 
in an old French ballad of the late twelfth century to 
the Pole-star and magnet : — 

" By this star they go and come 
And their course and their way do keep : 
They call it the polar star. 
This guide is most certain. 



All the others move 

And change positions and turn ; 

But this star moves not. 

An art they make, that cannot deceive, 

By the power of the magnet : 

A stone ugly and brown. 

To which iron spontaneously is drawn. 

They have : observing the right point. 

After they have touched it with a needle 

And in a straw have placed it 

They put it in water without other support, 

And the straws keep it afloat." 

This ballad was afterwards known as " The Song of 
the Compass." Doubtless this crude compass was 
used only when the sailors could not see the sun in 
cloudy weather, or it may have been also used when 
making night passages. It certainly cannot have been 
more than a frail aid in stormy weather, when these 
clumsy ships were pitching and rolling in the trough 
of the sea. Still, excepting this innovation, there is not 
between the time of the ancient Greeks and that of the 
fourteenth century more than the slightest advance 
in the seaman's art. Frankly, they hardly needed the 
compass in their coasting voyages, and when its utility 
was demonstrated they declined, for a long time, to 
put to sea in any ship having such an infernal and 
superstitious article on board. Although the date 1190 
has just been given as the approximate period when the 
lodestone was employed in European navigation, yet 
it was not till the beginning of the fourteenth century 
that a Neapolitan pilot suspended the needle on a 
fixed pivot in a box, though some authorities deny that 
this man accomplished so much. The origin of the 
fleur-de-lys, which the reader still sees on every com- 
pass card to this day — flower-de-luce, as the rude 
Elizabethan sailors used to call it — is variously attri- 
buted to the fact that this pilot was a subject of the 



King of Naples, who was of the junior branch of the 
Bourbon family. Or it is possibly a conventional 
representation of the dart which the Arabians called 
the needle. 

Let us then sum up. Thanks to the Vikings and 
Crusaders, the warriors and the traders, there was a 
greater knowledge of the world's geography. And now 
also men had the instrument which would enable them 
to find their way across trackless oceans and reach 
home again in safety. Concerning those places which 
they had never seen, they had much hopeful curiosity, 
but there was little actual information. All the time 
the East was calling in its magical way to the European 
adventurers. The land travellers of the twelfth, 
thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries had drawn back 
the veil hiding the golden harvest of the East. Those 
who had been and seen related such wondrous yarns 
that men of action and ambition longed to be away 
thither at once. The effect of the Crusades had not yet 
passed away. The desire for travel which has spread 
so enormously till it has reached the present-day ob- 
session was growing rapidly. y 

Understand, that since the time when those Phoeni- 
cians circumnavigated the Continent there had been 
no repetition of this achievement, and in fact no serious 
attempts. In 1270 Malocello had found the Canaries. 
Ten or twenty years later the Genoese had made some 
sort of effort to find a sea route to India, but they 
only reached Gozora in Barbary. Various other ex- 
plorers also found their way to the islands of the 
Atlantic adjacent to the West African coast. In the 
history of exploration there are plenty of instances 
where one man in a certain century has discovered a 
new region. Many years later, after this has been for- 
gotten, some other explorer lands on this territory and 
claims to have been there first. In other instances 



the secret of the first adventurer has been well kept 
and well utilised by those who lived long after the 
first man had died. 

Take Madeira as a case in point. This was dis- 
covered not by a Genoese, a Venetian, or a Portuguese, 
but by an Englishman of the name of Macham. He 
eloped from England with a certain lady, went on 
board his ship, reached Spain, and then arrived " by 
tempest " in Madeira, " and did cast anker in that 
haven or bay, which now is called Machico after the 
name of Macham. And because his lover was sea- 
sicke, he went on land with some of his company, and 
the shippe with a good winde made saile away, and 
the woman diedfor thought." This was about the year 
1344. For years after, Madeira remained unknown to 
men's minds. But Prince Henry the Navigator knew 
of the Macham incident, and he put it to good use. 

It is true that before the close of the Middle Ages the 
tendency of the Italian seamen-traders was to emerge 
from the limits of their Mediterranean Sea. The 
voyages to the Canaries and to Barbary are instances 
of this growing enterprise. They had for years es- 
tablished an overseas trade also with Northern Europe, 
and every year the Venetians made a voyage to Flanders 
and back. We have not space to deal in detail with 
the voyage of the two Venetian brothers Zeno to Green- 
land in the fourteenth century, though the record is 
still in existence for those who wish to read. 

But still, in spite of the voyages of Viking and 
Venetian, the Crusading expeditions, and the enter- 
prising travels which had been undertaken, yet the 
real progress in navigation, as a science and an art, was 
made not by the sailors of Christendom, but by the 
Arabians. The latter had calculated their tables of 
latitude and longitude by astronomical observations. 
They had produced rough coast-charts ; and what was 

Thirteenth-Century Merchant Sailing Ship. 


more, they had been using the compass and other 
nautical instruments for some time. But thanks to 
the travel craze which had set in, the Christian ships 
which were seen in the Mediterranean about the 
beginning of the fifteenth century were supplied with 
the compass, an astrolabe, a timepiece, and charts just 
as you would have found on board an Arabian trading 
to the Indian Ocean. At length the Christian seamen 
overcame their prejudice, and were glad to avail them- 
selves of the magnetised needle ; but its use was by no 
means universal. 

Bear in mind, also, the wave of the New Learning 
that was spreading over Europe. Mathematics and 
astronomy had already begun to be studied in Portugal 
at the beginning of the fourteenth century. And with 
regard to cartography, or map-making, something new 
was happening. Already by 1306 a Venetian map had 
been made which put into form the ideas which inspired 
the first Italian voyages in the Atlantic. These charts 
were made for the purpose of recording the discoveries 
of the great contemporary seamen. It is indeed sur- 
prising to note how accurate these charts really are. 
The Italians with all their artistic ability were now the 
great map-makers, and they managed to produce a 
number of portolani which were of the greatest use 
to the mariners and merchants of the Mediterranean. 
These were made by means of the knowledge and assist- 
ance of seamen, and were intended to be of service to 
the latter in their navigation. 

A portolano was nothing more or less than a plan or 
map-sketch. That which is here given is from a repro- 
duction in the Map Room of the British Museum. 
When we consider that this was made as far back as 
the year 1351, or one hundred and thirty-five years 
before the Cape of Good Hope was rounded, it is wonder- 
fully accurate, and the shape given to Southern Africa 

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■> ) >', 3 J J :> 

3 J J 3 3 ) ) 1 > > 3 , 

' ' '3 3 , ' 3 ', ' ' " 

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•ft -Is. ' y 



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is a curiously clever guess. But it should be remembered 
that though the continent had never been rounded 
(except in Phoenician times), yet there was a vague 
idea of the probable shape of the west coast from those 
who had been to Barbary ; and it is most probable 
that by the information received from the Arabs, who 
knew the East African coast intimately, this side of the 
continent would be described to them. Thus a not 
wholly incorrect idea was conveyed of the shape of the 
whole of Africa's coast-line. 

But if we examine the configuration of the portions 
depicted as being in Europe, notably the northern 
shores of the Mediterranean, this portolano is most 
pleasing and accurate, and cannot have failed to have 
saved the skippers of that time many an anxious 
moment. That which is here reproduced dates from 
the year 1351, but portolani were in use as far back as 
the twelfth century as practical guides to seamen. The 
next improvement occurred when the compass began 
to be used in the Mediterranean, and so the portolani 
began to be drawn with this aid. Gradually, with 
practice, they were beautifully finished, and contained 
practically no large error or any wrong proportion, 
while the mariner had very full details given him regard- 
ing the coastlines, rivers, mouths, headlands, bays, and 
so on. 

But everything that we have written in this chapter 
has been leading up to a consideration of the most 
important epoch in the whole history of seamanship 
or navigation. It is necessary to have in mind that 
south-west extremity of Portugal which is now so well 
known to students of naval history as Cape St. Vincent. 
On this strip of territory were to dwell a community 
that would, so to speak, dictate the maritime policy of 
the world. Here was to be the finest naval college 
which ever existed even to this day. Here were brought 



together the pick of the world's seamen and navigators 
of that time. From here were to issue both great 
explorers and the influence which caused all those 
other navigators to open up the world as a man 
opens a closed book. To this day civilisation has not 
realised one tithe of what it and the seafaring nations 
especially owe in respect of shipbuilding, navigation, 
and overseas commerce to that small stretch situated 
at the end of the Spanish peninsula. The success which 
followed was the result of a wonderful personality. It 
was the triumph of a man who possessed in one com- 
bination the gifts of a far-seeing imagination, a scholarly 
mind, and a genius for organisation allied to a passion 
for the sea and the finding of new lands. 

This man was Prince Henry, the third son of King 
John I of Portugal and nephew of Henry IV of England. 
His life is the old story of a man who wishes to do good 
work, and in order to bring out the best which is in him, 
finds it essential to retire from the world. Just as the 
monastic finds it desirable to withdraw from the hurly- 
burly of his age ; just as the scientist in search of some 
new invention applies himself to no other study and lets 
every other consideration slide, so Prince Henry the 
Navigator, as he came to be called, thrust aside the 
attractions of Court life and wedded himself to a work 
which has benefited humanity to an extent that it 
does not yet and perhaps never will appreciate. It 
is not too much to say that it is entirely owing to 
Prince Henry's influence that ships now sail back- 
wards and forwards to India, South Africa, America, 
Australia, and elsewhere. If only people understood 
half they owed to this man they would commemorate 
his name in every important seaport of the world. 

By nature a student and seaman, he retired (as his 
biographer, Mr. Raymond Beazley, appositely remarks) 
" more and more from the known world that he might 

'^>. ,, >,, -,, >',, > 

Prince Henry the Navigator. 

After a print by Simon de Passe. 

p. 126 


open up the unknown." That exactly sums up his Ufe. 
In olden times, what is now called Cape St. Vincent 
was known as the Holy Promontory. Just to the 
right of this comes Sagres, and a little further east is 
Lagos. In the year 1415 Prince Henry settles at 
Sagres, a cold, barren, dreary, inhospitable promontory, 
but one singularly suitable for quiet study and research, 
with the whole extent of the Atlantic to look out upon, 
and the fresh sea breezes to invigorate the mind away 
from the insincerities of civilised life. The fifteenth 
century has always been regarded as the last of the 
" Dark Ages," but few more wonderful things happened 
either then or after than the activities which emanated 
from the Sagres community. For here the Prince had 
brought and sifted all the geographical knowledge 
inherited from the ancients. Here were studied the 
subjects of mathematics, navigation, cartography in a 
manner and on such a scale as had never before been 
attempted. From Italy and Spain were sent the 
practical men — the boldest and most experienced sea- 
men and navigators that could be found. 

Sagres was a kind of international bureau created 
for the future development of the world, but especially 
and primarily it had for its object the reaching of 
India. Henry's countrymen who had been about over 
the continent of Europe had encountered in the markets 
of Bruges and London travellers and merchants from 
other parts of the world, and in course of conversation 
managed to pick up a good deal of information regarding 
the overland trade to India and the Far East. Henry's 
chief-of-staff was his own brother Pedro, who also had 
travelled extensively and had visited all the countries 
in the west of Europe. He, too, had come back not 
empty-handed, but with maps and plans, books and 
much verbal information regarding the places visited. 
All this information went to swell the general geo- 



graphical knowledge which Henry was accumulating 
and systematising. 

Close to Sagres was the naval arsenal of Lagos, over 
which the Prince was governor. Here he built those 
caravels which were to carry out the theories that he 
had worked out for his captains. On their return he 
set to work to sift the data which his ships and men had 
brought back with them, to correct the maps accord- 
ing to this new information, to readjust the instru- 
ments, to compare the accounts of travellers ancient 
and modern, and then to hand the conclusions of all 
these to the captains of the next ships that went forth 
to explore. Thus the Sagres naval college was at once 
highly theoretical and highly practical. It was also 
founded on a strong religious basis. Besides the 
palace, observatory, and study which he built for 
himself, Henry had erected a chapel, a village for his 
helpers, and among the instructions to those whom he 
sent out to explore was the admonition to bring 
Christianity into all new territory. Here were men 
engaged in teaching navigation to seamen ; here were 
others instructing pupils how to draw maps and 
nautical instruments. Even Arabians and Jews were 
imported to give the Portuguese the benefit of their 
learning in astronomical and mathematical subjects. 
It was indeed a cosmopolitan crowd which collected at 
this Atlantic village. Orientals and Portuguese, veteran 
pilots from Italy, shipbuilders, seamen, and students 
of all kinds, cartographers and instrument-makers. 
But they were assembled there for one purpose. Led 
by the example and patience and single-hearted en- 
thusiasm of their governor, who guided their labours 
with prudence and forethought, this little band was to 
be the nucleus which should form that magnificent race 
of Portuguese seamen who were to achieve so much 
during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 


We cannot but admire Prince Henry for his ad- 
mirable enthusiasm, for his patience, his wisdom, and 
his soHd hard work. Nevertheless we respect him 
possibly even more for having begun at the right end. 
Instead of sending out his fleets to blunder their way 
along, they set forth more adequately fitted both as to 
ships and men than any which had ever put to sea 
since the beginning of the world. In the schools of 
Sagres, the shipyards of Lagos, and the voyages of 
Prince Henry's ships, we have one of the finest com- 
binations of theory and practice which the mind of man 
could ever devise. It must indeed have been a most 
fascinating institution. From this school graduated 
a fearless race of sailors, who for their daring and enter- 
prise have never been surpassed either in Elizabethan 
or Nelsonian times when we consider the limitations of 
their equipment. 

Here at last, then, the seaman's art, for the first 
time in the history of the world, had a chance of being 
taught properly. From 1415 to 1460, with the excep- 
tion of brief intervals. Prince Henry remained here 
doing this splendid work till death released him from 
his labours. What then was the aim of his life's labour ? 
What, in fact, were the results which accrued ? Let 
us see first of all his aims. 

He wished to find a way round Africa to India partly 
for the love of the new knowledge itself, just as any 
scientist shares the world's delight in having discovered 
some invaluable invention. But also it would mean 
greater dominion, and Portugal would add to her 
distinctive position among the nations of the world. 
Already at least a century before his time it had been 
suggested by Raymond Lulli, a famous Majorcan 
alchemist, who lived from 1235 to 1315, that India 
might probably be reached by rounding Africa on the 
west and east, and it is curious how that idea persisted 

K 129 


without any apparent reason or justification before it 
was actually proved to be correct. Secondly, Henry 
wanted to find out what was the shape of the world, 
and to put an end to the rival theories which existed. 
Marco Polo had done something for the southern coast- 
line of Asia, and the shape of Africa had been fairly 
guessed by the portolano, as already seen. On the 
east coast of Africa there were the Arab settlements, 
and there was a vague sort of knowledge concerning 
the west coast so far south as Guinea. This information 
had been obtained through the Sahara caravan trade. 

But there was a third reason for Henry's enterprise. 
The research work, the education of his seamen, the 
making of maps, the providing of instruments, the 
building and fitting out of ships and so forth could not 
possibly go on without some sort of financial basis. 
Such a project, however philanthropic, could not be 
allowed to continue without some means of sustenance. 
Henry's idea was to make the overseas trade pay for 
all of this. There were riches enough in India and 
elsewhere to cover handsomely the cost of making 
Portugal a race of sailors, the leader of the world in 
maritime exploration. The land route across Asia 
along which were brought such rich commodities of 
eastern goods alone proved that India was worth 
aiming at. If only these goods could be brought by 
water, then not only would delay, pillage, and money 
be saved, but Portugal would become the owners of 
the Indian carrying trade, and the richest of the eastern 
merchants. One cannot emphasise too strongly the 
fact that in the minds of the people of the Middle Ages 
India was the prize of the world, the depository of the 
greatest wealth. India, then, was the inspiration, 
Sagres the medium by which the countries of the globe 
outside Europe have been discovered and developed. 

And there was another reason. The political power 


of the Catholic Church was very considerable. A 
Portuguese seaman was a true son of the Church, 
whether skipper or deck-hand. Wherever he colonised, 
wherever he discovered or traded, he was anxious to 
spread the Catholic religion. He hated Islam, he wanted 
to add the territory of the world to the great Christian 
empire. In no heart did such aspirations flourish so 
strongly as in Prince Henry the Navigator. India was 
to become not merely the means of encouraging sea- 
faring, but an invaluable possession. 

But what were the results of Henry's great organisa- 
tion and activities ? Indirectly he was the cause of 
Columbus finding the New World when looking for 
India in 1492 ; of Da Gama reaching India in 1498 ; 
of Magellan encircling the globe in 1520-2 : less directly 
still to him may be traced the round-the-world voyages 
of Drake and Anson. To Prince Henry the Navigator 
may be ascribed at least half the honour in conquering 
the islands of the Atlantic and the western coast of 
Africa, the doubling of the Cape of Good Hope, the 
founding of transoceanic empires and magnificent 
cities. To his genius may be traced the opening up 
of the Western Hemisphere, and the sea path to India 
and the Far East, the discovery of Australia, and other 
voyages embraced within the limits of a century. In 
fact, but for Henry the Navigator we should have re- 
mained for a much longer period ignorant of one-half 
of the world. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries 
are essentially a sea epoch more than any age in history, 
and their influence was felt in all subsequent periods 
even down to the present day. Sagres focussed all 
the world's knowledge of the nautical arts, and shed 
a powerful searchlight which revealed to nations the 
wonderful possibilities that lay by way of the sea. It 
led to India and America, to gold mines and rich 
plantations, to wealth, to prosperity, to power. The 



seamanship, the navigation, and the shipbuilding in 
that narrow strip of Portugal were the best which 
existed anywhere. 

Hence Prince Henry's pupils, even at such a late date 
in the world's history, were the first to break through 
all the superstitious ideas, the ignorance, the myths, 
and even terror with which the African unknown was 
regarded. If his own men did not actually reach India, 
at any rate they prepared the way thither by sailing 

Fifteenth-Century Shipbuilding Yard 

for two thousand miles to the southward where no 
other ships and sailors had been before, with the sole 
exception of the Phoenicians. Thus they went half 
the way to the Indian peninsula ; in fact, we may add, 
the most important half. For when at last Vasco da 
Gama had got round the south of Africa from west to 
east he was in an ocean that had been regularly traversed 
by Arabian seamen for centuries. But it is not so much 
the exploits of Henry's direct pupils which really 
matter ; it is the influence which he began to exert in 
the fifteenth century and continued to exert even after 


his death. He created a new school of nautical thought 
and practice. All maritime progress prior to the 
fifteenth century leads up to Henry the Navigator : 
from him radiate all the wondrous improvements 
which followed after the date when his Sagres school 
was inaugurated. There is not a man or woman to- 
day who ought not to feel grateful to this illustrious 
and able man. The expansion of Christendom, the 
increase of national wealth, the development of the 
colonial idea — these are but a few of the achievements 
which belong to him. From Portugal to Spain the 
excellent idea spread of carefully instructing the 
nation's seamen. It was Charles V who founded a lec- 
tureship at Seville on the Art of Navigation. Such 
authoritative men as Alonso de Chavez, Hieronymo 
de Chavez, and Roderigo Zamorano are referred to 
by Hakluyt as among those who, by word of mouth 
no less than by published treatise, were wont to in- 
struct the Spanish mariners. Not only did Charles V 
establish a lectureship, but owing to " the rawnesse 
of his Seamen, and the manifolde shipwracks which 
they susteyned in passing and repassing betweene 
Spaine and the West Indies, with an high reach and 
great foresight, established ... a Pilote Major, for 
the examination of such as sought to take charge of 
ships in that voyage." 

Similarly, owing doubtless to this influence, 
Henry VIII, recognising something of the importance 
of the naval side of a nation, founded three seamen's 
guilds or brotherhoods on apparently somewhat similar 
lines at Deptford-on-Thames, Kingston-on-Hull, and 
Newcastle-on-Tyne. The object was that English sea- 
men might become more apt in seamanship and navi- 
gation both in peace and war. And following up the 
same idea, we find his successor, Edward VI, promoting 
Sebastian Cabot to be Grand Pilot of England. 



Before we pass on, it may be advisable to run briefly 
through the different stages which led to the final 
opening up of the sea route to India from European 
ports. The whole project is so intimately bound up 
with the development of seamanship and navigation, 
that we cannot well afford to omit this sketch from 
our purview. It was not by one single effort, but by 
a series of attempts that the task was performed. The 
doubling of the Cape of Good Hope by Vasco da Gama 
in 1497 was notable not merely in itself — not merely 
because of the long voyage and the attainment of 
Africa's southern cape — but because it showed that 
that ancient instinct was right : there was a sea route 
to India for those who had the daring to venture. 

In the year 1415 the furthest south reached was 
Cape Nun, which is at the south-west extremity of 
Morocco. Three years later, thanks to the secret which 
Henry possessed of Macham's early voyage, two of the 
Prince's courtiers were able to rediscover Madeira. In 
1433 Cape Bojador, which is on the west coast of the 
Sahara to the south-east of the Canaries, was doubled 
by Gillianez. Thus these voyagers were gradually 
getting nearer to the Equator. The doubling of the 
last-mentioned headland made such an impression on 
Pope Martin V that His Holiness bestowed on the King 
of Portugal all that might thereafter be discovered in 
Africa and India. This concession led to international 
disputes in later years. 

In the year 1441 still more southing was achieved 
when Gonzales and Tristan reached Cape Blanco on 
the same West African coast. Three years later and 
the River Gambia was discovered, and in 1446 the Cape 
Verde Islands were visited. All this shows the con- 
siderable amount of activity which went on during 
those years when the Prince was at the head of his 
naval school. We can see, by referring to a map, how 

> ' 5 3 1 •> 5 

J , ) ' 3 ' . 5 > J 

' ' >=.,,, >,, T', ; '', :,'> 

A Fifteenth-Century Ship. 

J). 134 


steady and persistent was the advance along the west 
coast of this unknown continent. But then there 
comes Henry's death, and there follows a gap in this 
chain of discoveries. Still, before long this series of 
southerly voyages was resumed. The aim was ever in 
the same direction, but the cause of failure is unknown ; 
whether they feared to go too far, whether their pro- 
visions ran out, whether their crews were diminished 
by sickness and death, whether they were not too sure 
of the condition of their ships one cannot say. Their 
intention seems to have been to proceed with caution, 
and possibly they aimed at a more detailed exploration 
than some of their successors. Perhaps this was owing 
to the instructions of the Prince. 

At any rate, with the invaluable data which they 
brought back, each expedition made it easier for the 
next, so that by the year 1470 the Portuguese were able 
to reach as far south as almost to the Equator, and four- 
teen years later the Congo River was attained. But, 
with so much successfully accomplished, the impetus 
to do very much more became strong, and in 1486 the 
King of Portugal sent forth two expeditions, having for 
their object the discovery of an eastern route to India, 
and also to find if possible the whereabouts of a mys- 
terious personality, Prester John. The latter was not 
discovered. One of these two expeditions proceeded 
through Egypt, then down the Red Sea, and so across 
the Arabian Sea. Its members encountered many a 
hardship, but they did succeed in making Calicut in the 
south-west of India. The other expedition was under 
the leadership of Bartholomew Diaz. It was of no great 
size, consisting merely of a couple of caravels and one 
store-ship. This little squadron did not reach India, 
but made a wonderful advance on all those previous 
voyages which had never got further south than the 
Equator and the Congo. Diaz sailed south beyond the 



latitude of the Cape of Good Hope, and doubled it 
without knowing it. He coasted for a thousand miles 
along African shores which had never been seen by 
European sailors hitherto. And although he was not 
lucky enough to reach across to India, yet, when he 
returned, he had the great happiness of realising that 
he had passed at last that cape which is the southern 
African extremity. Probably you know the story : 
how that Diaz, mindful of the bad weather for which 
this region is famous, had called it the Cape of Tor- 
ments, and how that the Portuguese king would not 
suffer this to be the name, but rather that it should be 
called the Cape of Good Hope, since the discovery was 
so promising. 

And then we come to that ever memorable year of 
1497, when all these preliminary voyages sink into 
insignificance before that of Vasco da Gama, who 
doubled the cape on November 20, then sailed to the 
northward, discovered Mozambique, Sofala, and Me- 
linda ; and finally, with the help of an Indian pilot, 
crossed the ocean from Melinda to Calicut in twenty- 
three days, so that this Vasco da Gama had the supreme 
honour of being the first seaman in the world's history, 
so far as any record has been preserved to us, to make 
the entire lengthy voyage from Western Europe to the 
land of the Indian treasure. 

With the seamanship and navigation of Columbus 
we shall proceed to deal presently. Although he comes 
within the fifteenth century, and his famous voyage 
was really concerned with a desire to find India, yet it 
will be more convenient to be able to watch his methods 
with greater detail in the following chapter. He 
is the connecting link between the fifteenth-century 
Henry the Navigator and that wonderful epoch of 
sixteenth-century seamen. It would not be inaccurate 
to describe him as the last of the medieval sailors and 


the first of the moderns. But our present aim is, now 
that we have seen the wonderful improvement in navi- 
gation which had set in, to obtain some idea of the con- 
temporary seamanship in the Middle Ages. _ 

From the coming of the Viking type of craft to the 
universal adoption of the caravel class of vessel there 
was but little variation in the kind of seamanship. In 
the Mediterranean the lateen sail involved a knowledge 
of fore-and-aft seamanship, but while this was used 
chiefly on the smaller craft, yet the bigger ships carried 
a squaresail forward and the lateen aft. This was 
the beginning of the caravel, which was to develop 
into a three- and even four-masted ship, with always 
a lateen at the stern. But in Northern Europe, where 
the single (square) sail type of ship and the Viking-like 
hull had continued without intermission and with only 
slight alterations such as the addition of stern- and fore- 
castles, the seamanship was practically identical with 
that of the Norsemen. 

In what did this seamanship consist ? It was 
exceedingly simple, and may be summed up briefly 
thus : The ships were made fast by big anchors and 
thick cables. This is evident from the pictures of the 
Bayeux tapestry. They quanted themselves off into 
deep water by pushing from the stern with a pole. The 
men then rowed with their oars, and as soon as clear 
of the shallows up went the mast and sail, the latter 
with its yard being fixed permanently to the former. 
A number of the crew would haul on to the backstays 
aft as the mast and sail were brought into position, the 
mast being inserted in its step and tabernacle. Ap- 
parently there were no braces, but the sail was con- 
trolled with a sheet from each clew. Similarly when 
making land and about to bring up or beach the vessel, 
sail and mast were bodily lowered and allowed to come 
forward, part of the crew remaining aft to steady the 




mast and sail as they came down to the deck. The steer- 
ing was done by a single paddle or side-rudder placed 
on the starboard side. As a protection for the oarsmen 
a line of shields — doubtless those which they actually 
wore in battle — ran round the gunwale overlapping 
each other. A small jolly-boat was sometimes towed 
astern for landing from the bigger type of craft, while 
for greater convenience a look-out man was sent to the 
top of the mast. This is distinctly shown in the Bayeux 

It is more than likely that North European seaman- 
ship had not reached a very high stage of perfection, 
excepting among the Norsemen, at this time. Other- 
wise William the Conqueror would probably not have 
lost part of his fleet in a summer's gale off the French 
coast when preparing for his invasion of England. 
Nor, some years later, would the Blanche Nef have been 
handled so negligently among the rocks round Cape 
Barfleur as to founder. It is pretty clear that there 
were too much drink and frivolity on board ; but 
a careful skipper would scarcely have allowed such a 
dereliction of duty if he realised fully what sort of a 
task it was to take a ship through such tricky waters as 
the Race of Catteville. But the finest and, in fact, the 
only way to make good seamen is to take them for long 
voyages. And so, in spite of the fact that less than a 
century and a half later the type of ships had scarcely 
changed, yet there is an evident improvement in the 
seaman's skill. For everyone must concede that to take 
a fleet of over a hundred twelfth- century ships on such 
a long voyage as from Dartmouth to the Holy Land 
was in itself a very fine feat of endurance and skill. 
Considering the nature of these craft, the absence of 
navigational facilities, the crowded condition of their 
hulls, the bad weather they had to encounter, the suffer- 
ings of their crews, and a host of minor difficulties which 


had to be borne, one can only wonder that they ever 
reached their destination and returned to their native 
country. Richard I was certainly a seaman. You 
will remember that on that terrible night of Easter 
Eve, April 13, 1190, his fleet were in the Mediterranean 
and caught in a heavy gale. His mariners were pros- 
trate with sea-sickness, some of his ships were un- 
governable, the horses in the holds of others would be 
causing the crews endless anxiety in addition to the 

The Fleet of Richard I setting forth from Dartmouth 


troubles of the wind and wave. But not a ship was 
lost. They all came through the ordeal. All night 
long Richard kept a light burning at his masthead and 
hove-to, waiting for his chickens to gather round the 
mother hen. 

If ever a fleet of ships was tried it was this expedition 
from the Devonshire village. They were not many 
days out and had not yet said farewell to the Bay of 
Biscay before they were caught in bad weather and 
the fleet scattered. But it is certain that this fleet 



accomplished what it did partly owing to the fact that 
every day at sea gave them greater experience, and 
partly because they were well found, or as well found 
as ever ships of that period could be. We can note the 
mind of a far-seeing man in the care with which these 
craft were fitted out. Thus, for example, in bad weather 
there was every chance of the steering oar being carried 
away or being broken into half. To guard against such 
an awkward possibility each ship went forth from the 
cliffs of Dartmouth with a number of spare steering 
oars. Another very likely article to carry away on a 
long voyage, involving bringing-up in all sorts of places, 
was the anchor. Each principal ship, therefore, carried 
no less than thirteen of such, though it should be added 
that of these some consisted of grapnels used in getting 
alongside the enemy and fighting hand to hand. There 
were spare oars also, two spare sails, three sets of 
halyards, stays, and other ropes — everything, in fact, 
except the mast and the ship's boat was carried in 
duplicate. There were knights in armour, infantry, 
horses, and victuals for a whole year to be stowed 
away in these ships, so a great deal of thought had to 
be expended. 

If we had been able to look down on to the harbour 
of one of the Cinque Ports of the thirteenth century and 
watched some of the contemporary ships getting under 
way, we should have been struck with the extreme 
simplicity of their seamanship. And in the fewest 
words I propose now to sketch very roughly the manner 
in which such craft would put to sea. I am assuming 
nothing which cannot be verified by actually existing 
historical data. Picture, then, a modified Viking type 
of ship with good freeboard, high stem- and stern-posts, 
with a castellated structure at each end, and a mast 
stepped about midships and supported by shrouds and 
backstays. The crews go on board. These consist of the 


masters or " rectores." Under them come the steers- 
men or " sturmanni," who were responsible for the 
piloting of the ship. They would possess more know- 
ledge than anyone else of their own waters and ad- 
jacent havens. 

The crew consisted of three classes. First of all were 
the " galiotae " or galley-men. These I understand 
to be the men who did the rowing as in the Viking 
ships. The second class consisted of " marinelli," who 
may have been the fighting men of the ship ; and the 
third division was found in the " nautae " or sailors, 
who were obviously the men that went aloft, got up 
anchor, set and furled sail, worked the sheets, and did 
the deck work. On these ships there were usually 
about forty hands carried ; but there are instances of 
seventy being the full complement. In such cases 
as the last-mentioned there was a superior officer 
carried in addition to the usual officers and crew. Life 
on board these ships was certainly very different from 
that which the modern seaman finds on the sail-less 
steamship. But these rude, virile seamen were well 
paid for their work; they had plenty of excitement to 
keep up their spirits, they were given their food and 
wine, even though their clothes were scanty and 
probably had to be found by themselves. But when 
they were wounded they had the satisfaction of being 
pensioned off. 

Having repaired on board, then, we see the " rector " 
at the helm, while some of the crew are forward hauling 
up the ship's cable by the bows. This cable leads aft, 
where it passes round a windlass that is turned by other 
members of the crew with handspikes. Meanwhile 
one of the crew by the aid of his hands and knees climbs 
up the backstays to let loose the lashing which keeps 
the squaresail furled to the yard. Note that the sail is 
not lowered or raised to or from deck, but kept perma- 



nently aloft. Before he has allowed the canvas to be 
unfurled, and before the anchor has been broken out 
from the ground, a couple of trumpeters m-ount the 
top of the stern-castle and blow their notes to warn 
any incoming craft that they are emerging. It is 
exactly analogous to the blowing of a modern steam- 
ship's syren when the big liner is clearing from her 

The thirteenth-century ship, then, puts to sea. She 
has both oars and a sail, she has an able crew, she has 
a good, strong hull of a healthy seaworthy type. She 
is ready for anything that comes along. If the wind 
fails, then she can send a man aloft to furl the sail and 
her crew can get out their oars. If it comes on to 
blow very hard indeed, she can take in one, two, or 
three reefs by means of reef-points as to-day. And 
then when the enemy is espied and the time comes 
for battle, the fighting men can prepare swords, axes, 
bows and arrows, lances, and engines for throwing 
heavy stones, while some of the men go aloft and 
climb into the fighting top, from which they are ready 
to hurl down those heavy stones which crashed through 
an enemy's decks. For it is certain from contemporary 
illustrations that these ships were now no longer mere 
open craft. 

In their fighting methods brute force was chiefly relied 
upon ; but not always. That deadly mixture known 
as Greek fire, which was some sort of mixture contain- 
ing principally pitch and sulphur, was a very efficacious 
method of routing the enemy when the methods of 
grapnels, swords, arrows, and stones were not all- 
availing. As soon as this Greek fire was exposed to 
the air it became ignited, and there flowed a stream of 
fire over ships and sea creating wholesale panic. It 
could not be extinguished by water : only vinegar or 
sand or earth could put it out. \'\Tierever it went it 


burnt up hulls, spars, and sails, suffocating the terrified 
crews in a very short time. Ramming, as a naval 
manoeuvre, was far from obsolete in the Middle Ages, 
as we know from actual incidents in literature and pic- 
torial representation. 

It would not be correct to assert that there was a 
total disregard of tactics in medieval times. When 
Richard was cruising with his fleet in the Mediter- 
ranean at the time of the Crusades, he caused his ships 
to sail in eight separate lines, each line being within 
trumpet call of the other. Richard himself was in the 
eighth line as commander-in-chief. Treatises on naval 
tactics had been written by Mediterranean experts, 
but I do not think that there is any evidence for sup- 
posing that the English seamen ever learnt such a thing 
until Richard's ships went to the Mediterranean. So 
much happened for improving maritime matters sub- 
sequent to that Crusade that we need not be surprised 
to find, less than thirty years later, the English seamen 
for the first time in northern waters exhibiting an 
appreciation of all that tactics meant in battle. We 
have not space here to go into the battles, but you will 
find the first instance of this new knowledge in that 
naval encounter which took place in August of 1217 off 
the South Foreland. Notwithstanding that the fleet of 
Eustace the Monk was numerically far stronger than 
ours, yet by clever tactical manoeuvres our ships and 
men not only prevented his from landing, but inflicted 
a heavy slaughter and defeat upon the invaders. The 
English commander was Hubert de Burgh, and to his 
cleverness the success was due. Sixteen large, well- 
armed craft were his ships, with twenty smaller ships ; or 
a total of thirty-six. Eustace had eighty, or more than 
twice as many. The key to the victory was simply this. 
When the enemy's ships were seen to be sailing with 
a fresh southerly breeze from the French coast, the 



English fleet put to sea, stood on till they were well 
to windward, and then easing their sheets bore down 
on to the invaders with a fair wind, hooked on to them 
with grapnels, shot at them with arrows and threw un- 
slaked lime at the Frenchmen, with the result that the 
breeze carried both arrows and lime exactly where the 
English had wanted — to leeward. With this confusion 
the English boarded them and hacked away at the 
halyards so that mast and sail came down, burying 
many on the confused deck. After that the victory was 

Now such a well-thought-out plan of fighting shows 
that naval warfare had in England already reached the 
scientific stage. If the reader will take his chart of the 
Straits of Dover and work out the manoeuvres which 
I have given in greater detail elsewhere, ^ he will see 
that the English admiral displayed a perfect knowledge 
of the Channel tides, seamanship, and naval tactics in 
thus outwitting a force twice his own strength. And 
again, at the battle of Sluys, the victory was won by the 
superior tactics of the English, which showed excellent 
seamanship, perfect knowledge of the Flemish tides, 
and sound judgment in the problems of the sea. The 
English in 1340 played the same game as they had in 
1217. They confused the enemy, who wondered why 
the English fleet were apparently going away from 
them. They wondered still more when, after standing 
out to sea, the English went about and came down on 
them like a pack of sea-monsters eager to devour them 
and successful in the attempt. So also exactly ten years 
later, in that very interesting battle of Les Espagnols 
sur Mer, which is unknown to many a modern layman, 
when Edward II commanded in person, we find every- 
thing being done by system and plan. He comes down 
with his Court to lodge near the sea. He himself goes 

1 "The Story of the British Navy." London, 1911. 



afloat, spends a long time in training manoeuvres, keeps 
a look-out man at the masthead who suddenly spies 
the enemy coming down Channel, when, to quote the 
words of Froissart, he ordered the trumpets to be 
sounded and the ships " to form a line of battle." The 
rest is merely a narrative of collisions between ship and 
ship, with masts and sails falling, chains and grapnels 
straining, the hurling of stones and iron bars from the 
castle at the masthead, the felling of one another's masts, 
the cutting adrift of the enemy's halyards and shrouds, 
the heaving overboard (a favourite and regular habit in 
war) of every man and boy of the enemy they could 
lay their hands on, and finally victory to the English. 

Even coasting voyages during the Middle Ages were 
risky proceedings, with no charts of the English coast 
— at any rate, none that were of much good — and with ; 
no regular lighthouses to warn the mariner off outlying ' 
dangers : only through the charity of the monastic 
establishments, such as that on St. Albans Head, were 
lights kept burning at night on a few promontories. It 
may be that it was out of gratitude for such kindness 
that the mariner lowered sail when he passed a 
monastery on the shore. As to the ships themselves 
of this time, we know that the planking was fastened 
not by iron and copper nails, but by wooden pegs called 
treenails. The hulls were painted with pitch, tar, oil, 
and resin. In these early accounts there is a reference 
to the " seilyerdes," and the sail itself consisted of 
twenty-six cloths. The latter was painted red, possibly 
tanned something like the modern sailing trawlers, and 
the canvas was fitted with " liche-ropes," "bolt-ropes," 
and "rif-ropes." From Viking times bonnets were 
laced to the foot of the sail to give increased canvas 
for use in fine weather. 

When it was that the word reef was first employed 
cannot be ascertained, but it is found in literature 

L 145 


(" Confessio Amantis ") in the year 1193, or three 
years after Richard's fleet set out to the Mediterranean. 
Here the word " ref " or " rif " clearly denotes some- 
thing that could be slacked off. But there seems to be 
some possibility of confusion between the device by 
which sail can be shortened and that " bonnet " by 
which the sail's area can be increased. During the 
early part of the fourteenth century the rudder began 
to disappear from the quarter where it had been since 
the times of the Egyptians, and to be placed astern in 
the position it occupies to-day. This necessitated the 
use of chains, the iron for which, as also for the anchors, 
was fetched from Spain. But there is reference con- 
cerning these medieval ships to such items as " steyes " 
and " baksteyes," " hempen cordage," " cranelines " 
for securing the forestay at its foot, " hauceres " 
(hawsers), " peyntours " (painters, derived from the 
French word signifying a noose), "boyeropes," for the 
cables, " seysynges," " botropes," " schetes " for the 
clews of the sail, " boweline," " saundynglyne " for 
the use of the pilot-leadsman, " shives " and " polives," 
tallow, hooks, and so on. 

The anchors of the king's galleys were 7 feet long, 
and his great ship carried five cables. Under the 
" rectores " were the " sturmanni " or steersmen, who 
were responsible for the supervision of the seamanship 
on board. Next in order came the " galiotae " or galley- 
men, and finally the " marinelli " or mariners and the 
" nautse " or common sailors. Later on the " rector " 
became " magister," a constable was chosen to look 
after the arms, and there were added also a carpenter, 
a clerk who presently became purser, and a boatswain. 

But if we would wish to get an insight into the life 
and conditions on board an English sailing ship of the 
Middle Ages, we can find no more illuminating in- 
formation than is contained in a MS. now in the posses- 

' ' , ' ' > 3 

"" '' V,, J',^ ,',, , ,,, 

A Medieval Sea-going Ship. 

p. 146 

c c e * 


sion of Trinity College, Cambridge. This depicts the 
troubles and tribulations on board a pilgrim ship of the 
time of Edward III, written by a contemporary. In 
explanation of this poem given below, it should be 
added that the carrying of pilgrims to the shrine of 
St. James was a regular branch of the shipping trade. 
In those days no less than in the present century the 
miseries of sea-sickness and general discomfort asso- 
ciated with sea-travel were a nightmare to the lands- 
man. But this quaint poem, which is the earliest 
sea-song in existence, so well portrays the life of the 
seafaring man that it is most probably the composition 
of a sailor accustomed to pursue his calling on one of 
these merchant ships. Alternatively the author was 
a landsman who had kept his eyes and ears open during 
the voyaging and noted accurately the work on ship- 
board. The poem begins gloomily enough and describes 
the getting under way, the hoisting of the ship's boat, 
the setting sail, trimming sheets, and the accommodating 
of the passenger-pilgrims. In spite of the archaic spell- 
ing and phraseology it is surprising how modernly this 
sea-song reads and how truly it seems to depict con- 
temporary ship life. 

" Men may leve all gamys 
That saylen to Seynt Jamys : 
For many a man hit gramys^ 
When they begyn to sayle. 

"For when they have take the see. 
At Sandwyche, or at Wynchylsee, 
At Brystow, or where that hit bee, 
Theyr herts begyn to fayle. 

" Anone the mastyr commaundeth fast 
To hys shyp-men in all the hast^ 
To dresse^ hem sone about the mast, 
Theyr takelyng to make. 

' Grieves. * Haste, ^ Arrange. 



" With ' howe ! hissa ! ' then they cry, 
' What, howe ! mate, thow stondyst to ny ^ 
Thy fellow may nat hale the by ' : 
Thus they begyn to crake. ^ 

" A boy or tweyne anone up-styen,^ 
And overthwart the sayle-yerde lyen : — 
* Y how ! taylia ! ' ■* the remenaunt cryen, 
And pull with all theyr myght. 

" ' Bestowe ^ the boote, bote-swayne, anon, 
That our pylgryms may pley thereon : 
For som ar lyke to cowgh and grone. 
Or hit be full mydnyght.' 

" ' Hale the bowelyne ! now, vere the shete ! 
Cooke, make redy anoon our mete. 
Our pylgryms have no lust to ete, 
I pray God yeve hem rest.' 

" ' Go to the helm ! what, howe ! no nere ! ^ 
Steward, felow ! a pot of here ! ' 
' Ye shall have, sir, with good chere, 
Anone all of the best.' 

'' ' Y howe ! trussa ! hale in the bi'ayles ! 
Thou halyst nat, be God, thow fayles ! '' 
O se howe well owre good shyp sayles ! ' 
And thus they say among. 

" ' Hale in the wartake ! ' ^ ' Hit shall be done.' 
' Steward ! cover the boorde anone,^ 
And set bred and salt thereone. 
And tary nat to long.' 

" Then cometh oone and seyth, ' be mery : 
Ye shall have a storme or a pery.' ^^ 

^ ''You're standing- too close beside your mate so that he cannot haul." 
2 Shout. 3 Go aloft. 

4 Taylia = " tally aft the sheet "—" haul aft," etc. ^ stow. 

^ "No nearer" — " don't come any nearer to the wind." 
^ "Thou failest" — "you'i-e slacking." 

' "M^artake" may mean ''war-tackle," but what exactly that signifies no one 
to-day has been able to suggest. 

» i.e. lay the cloth. i" "Pery" means "squall." 



' Holde thow thy pese ! thow canst no whery,^ 
Thow medlyst wondyr sore.' 

" Thys menewhyle the pylgryms ly, 
And have theyr bowlys fast them by, 
And cry aftyr hote malvesy,^ 
' Thow helpe for to restore.' 

" And som wold have a saltyd tost, 
For they myght ete neyther sode ne rost^ : 
A man myght sone pay for theyr cost, 
As for 00 day or twayne. 

" Some layde theyr bookys on theyr kne. 
And rad so long they myght nat se : 
'Alias ! myne hede woll cleve on thre,' * 
Thus seyth another certayne. 

" Then cometh oure owner lyke a lorde. 
And speketh many a royall worde, 
And dresseth hym to the hygh borde 
To see all thyng be well. 

" Anone he calleth a carpentere 
And biddyth hym bryng with hym hys gere'^ 
To make the cabans here and there. 
With many a febyll cell. 

*' A sak of strawe were there ryght good. 
For som must lyg*^ them in theyr hood : 
I had as lefe be in the wood, 
Without mete or drynk. 

" For when that we shall go to bedde, 
The pumpe was nygh our beddes hede, 
A man were as good to be dede. 
As smell thereof the stynk."'^ 

1 " Thow canst no whery " = "you mustn't complain " — you know nothing about 
these matters." ^ Malmsey. ^ Boiled nor roast. 

* " My head will be cleft in three" — "my head is splitting." 

* "Gere" means "tools." Lightly constructed cabins were knocked together 
on these Viking-like ships by the ship's carpenter to accommodate passengers. 

8 Lie. 

^ Evidently some of the passengers had to sleep in the hold, whence the 
stench of the bilge water and the accumulation of filth made their life very 




T is curious to observe, as one reads 
history, that many an invention, 
or a practical idea belonging to 
modern times, has really existed 
for century and century, though 
in an undeveloped condition. The 
modern liquid compass is an ex- 
cellent instance. 

" Ere men the virtue of the magnet found, 
The ocean scarcely heard a human sound." 

But inasmuch as the ship is at the 
mercy of the sea, and since the sea is a continually 
undulating entity, a compass which does not have a 
corresponding adaptability is inadequate. This fact, as 
one might naturally suppose, was appreciated by the 
early navigators. Ford^ quotes Bailak Kibdjaki, an 
Arabian writer of a.d. 1242, and shows that at least a 
crude kind of liquid compass was in use by the Oriental 
navigators. "The captains navigating the Syrian Sea," 
says Kibdjaki, "when the night is so dark as to conceal 
from view the stars, which might direct their course 
according to the position of the four cardinal points, 
take a basin full of water ; they then drive a needle 
into a wooden peg or cornstick, so as to form the shape 

1 " Dawn of Navigation," in " Proceediugs of the United States Naval 
Institute/' Vol. XXXII. Annapolis, 1906. 



of a cross, and throw it into the basin of water, on the 
surface of which it floats. They afterwards take a 
loadstone of sufficient size to fill the palm of the hand, 
or even smaller, bring it to the surface of the water, 
give the hand a rotary motion towards the right, so 
that the needle turns on the water's surface. They 
then suddenly and quickly withdraw the hand, when 
the two points of the needle face north and south. 
They have given me ocular demonstration of this 
process during our sea voyage from Syria to Alexandria 
in the year 640 of the Hegira." 

By the thirteenth century the people dwelling along 
the Mediterranean littoral had long since become 
skilled seamen if not consummate navigators. There 
is in the British Museum a volume by Francesco da 
Barberino, entitled " Documenti d'Amore." The author 
was born in 1264, and in the ninth lection of this 
volume has so much to say about nautical service that 
this forms what is really the first work on seamanship 
that was ever written. Space will not allow more than 
a cursory reference to this, but it contains evidence of 
the system into which the Mediterranean sea-service 
had developed. The old custom which was in vogue 
during classical times of limiting the sailing season to 
certain months was retained. Thus Barberino remarks 
that the time for navigation was from April to the end 
of September. Furthermore it was not custom merely, 
but actual law. For maritime legislation had originated 
during the twelfth century, and was continued in the 
" Loi de Trani," the " Code Navale des Rhodiens," the 
" Code de la Mer," and the famous Laws of Oleron. In 
fact only the lawless, avaricious merchant captains 
ventured to put to sea in the other six months of the 
year ; none but these cared to venture forth sailing 
through the long dark nights, and the fogs, storms, 
and snow. 



Before the Iberian peninsula became so intimate 
with the problems of navigation, Venice was, of course, 
the great medieval home of the southern sailor, and 
those in authority saw that the marine affairs were 
properly looked after. The captains of all commercial 
ships sailing under the Venetian flag were, in 1569, 
forbidden to leave Alexandria, Syria, or Constantinople 
any time between November 15 and January 12. 
Such was the motherly care displayed for the State's 
shipping ; but it is only fair to add that before very 
long such restrictions on navigation were removed. 

Very interesting, too, is the advice which Barberino 
gives to pilots. Remember, if you please, that the 
Mediterranean was the happy hunting ground of 
professional pirates, and never a merchant ship put 
to sea on a long voyage but she ran the risk of en- 
countering these corsairs. Therefore all pilots of 
trading craft were advised to make their ships as little 
visible as possible. It is well for them to lower the 
white sail when clear of the land and to hoist a small 
black one. Especially at break of day is it unsafe to 
lower sail until out of sight of the shore. " Then," 
suggests Barberino, " send the top-man aloft to see if 
an enemy be in sight." Many another useful " wrinkle " 
is given, as, for instance, how to act when the rudders 
carry away. Apparently the old classical custom of a 
rudder affixed to each quarter, and both a small and 
large mast and sail, was still retained. That smaller 
black sail just mentioned was known among the 
Venetian seamen by the nickname of " wo]f," from 
its colour and cunning. The mainmast being carried 
away, then the smaller one, usually employed for the 
*' wolf," was stepped and used. And if, in turn, that 
also went by the board, then the lateen yard was to be 
used until dawn returned. There are directions, also, 
to make a jury-rudder by towing a spar astern. 


During the night, as these ships sailed along over the 
heaving Mediterranean and Adriatic with a great 
belly of canvas reaching down from the massive lateen 
yard, strict silence was maintained on board. After 
dark not even the boatswain was allowed to use his 
whistle, nor were bells to be sounded — not an avoid- 
able noise of any kind was to be suffered lest the 
presence of the richly laden trading ship should be 
suddenly revealed to some pirate hovering in the 
vicinity. The earliest Venetian statutes affecting ships 
belong to the year 1172, and these, after being con- 
siderably amplified in the thirteenth century, were 
again added to in the fifteenth, after the conquest of 
Constantinople. Every possible detail seems to have 
been regulated in connection with these merchant 
ships. The general supervision was attended to with 
the most meticulous care. The construction of these 
merchant ships themselves, the quantity and quality 
of their cargo, the number of their crew, their anchors, 
ropes, and gear generally, all came under this control. 

Additional to the crew there were carried a couple of 
scribes on each of these trading ships, for the purpose 
of keeping an exact account of the freights. The 
skipper, or padrone, was compelled to be on board his 
ship by the hour of departure, and was not allowed to 
quit his ship till she reached her port. The accom- 
modation for passengers and crew was probably but 
primitive, and they apparently catered for themselves ; 
for each man, whether one of the crew or the passengers, 
was suggestively permitted to bring with him a mattress 
and cushion, a trunk for his belongings, a flask of wine, 
a flask of water, together with flour and biscuit. Even 
in the early seventeenth century the men on the 
Spanish warships used to cook each for himself, in 
contradistinction to the English seamen, who had 
their meals prepared by the ship's cook. Though 



the Venetian ships up till the fifteenth century did 
not dare to venture out into the " Green Sea of Dark- 
ness," as the Arabs termed the Atlantic, yet we cannot 
afford to despise ships and men who regularly traded 
between the Adriatic and the Levant. Even a modern 
sailing ship would have some difficulty in beating the 
passage which one of these craft made in the year 1408, 
when she sailed from Venice to Jaffa in thirty-three 
days, calling at various ports on the way. 

Venice might have continued to hold the supreme 
position on the sea had not Portugal and Spain 
taken to the ocean, and studied the problems of navi- 
gation on a much grander and more scientific scale. 
The discovery of America, and the doubling of the 
Cape of Good Hope, the opening up of a sea route to 
India, all combined to take away from Venice her 
commerical prestige, at any rate afloat. Relying 
partly on the newly adopted magnetised needle, partly 
on their crude astronomical instruments and tables of 
the movements of sun and moon ; trusting also to the 
most careful observations of weather, colour of the 
sea, seaweed, tree branches and other objects found 
floating on the surface of the ocean ; noting carefully 
by night, as mariners for centuries before them had 
been careful to notice, the north star and other stellar 
bodies ; but at the same time lacking reliable know- 
ledge of ocean currents and trade winds — the Portuguese 
discoverers were able to keep the sea for months, 
independent of and out of sight of land, an achieve- 
ment which had not been brought about since the days 
when the Phoenicians circumnavigated Africa. Venice 
had had her day ; just as Egypt, Phoenicia, Greece, 
and Rome before her, just as Spain, England, Holland, 
and France later on were to become great maritime 

And so we come to that prince of navigators, that 


consummate seaman, that greatest of all maritime 
discoverers, Columbus, and we shall proceed to learn 
from contemporary accounts the kind of seamanship 
and navigation which he employed on his memorable 
voyages, the life which he and his companions lived in 
those historic cruises into the unknown. Happily 
Columbus's log is still preserved to us. Even though it 
is somewhat mutilated, yet it is full of illuminating 
information, and must be regarded as " the most 
important document in the whole range of the history of 
geographical discovery." The methods, the instru- 
ments, even the ships employed by Columbus were 
merely typical of the best which then were used. 
Emphatically they were not otherwise. Therefore if 
we note carefully the ways of the Santa Maria, the 
Pinta, and Nina, we are really focussing the most 
expert seamanship and navigation of the fifteenth 
century. There were certainly ships afloat as good as, 
if not better than the Santa Maria ; but what is to be 
remembered is that those illustrious explorers of the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were really expert 
navigators, and not merely daring seamen, astutes 
traders, or courageous soldiers. Columbus, Drake, 
Davis, and so on were, according to their times, really 
scientific men. I wish to emphasise this because the 
world is wont to admire their valour and enterprise 
while forgetting their mental abilities and achieve- 
ments. As we shall see presently, Columbus's navigation 
was always better than that of the skippers of the 
Nina and Pinta. Drake was an excellent navigator, 
especially in regard to astronomical navigation. Davis 
as anyone who cares to read his works may see for 
himself, was most learned in the theory of finding one's 
way across the trackless sea. 

In the light of modern knowledge, modern practice, 
and modern nautical instruments, some of the errors in 



navigation of those days may seem to us ridiculous, 
until we recollect that these men were really fumbling 
in the darkness with nothing to guide them except 
moderate knowledge, inefficient aids, and their own 
natural instincts. Long before Christopher Columbus 
set out to the westward he had studied cosmography 
and astrology at the University of Pavia. He had also 
visited Lisbon, whither the fame of the achievements 
of Prince Henry the Navigator's illustrious captains 
had attracted other capable seamen, among whom 
were such men as Da Gama, and his own elder 
brother Bartolomeo. At this time Lisbon was still 
the centre of all nautical and geographical enterprise. 
Here Bartolomeo was working as the head of a school 
of cartography, and here Christopher had every 
opportunity for studying the charts and logs of the 
greatest living sea captains after Bartolomeo had re- 
turned home. He had the dual advantage of learning 
all that both Genoa and Lisbon could teach him. 
Furthermore, he was a practical seaman, and had 
already sailed as far to the north as Iceland. 

We need not stop to inquire whether Columbus was 
aware that already many years before his time the 
Vikings had discovered North America. It is at least 
most improbable that he was aware of this fact. What 
is certain is that, fortified with all the nautical lore 
obtainable from the greatest living Peninsular sea 
captains, he set out with a firm conviction that the 
world was a sphere, and he was hoping to prove that 
conviction. Himself a gifted cartographer, he would 
make his charts as he went along. From Palos, then 
the most flourishing port of Andalusia, a village that 
contained little else among its inhabitants than some 
of the finest seamen-explorers in the world, he set sail 
with a fair wind on August 3 — a Friday — 1492, in the 
Santa Maria. Accompanying her were the two smaller 


craft Nina and Pinta. " Carabela " was not then 
applied to a particular species of ship, but only to cer- 
tain vessels of medium tonnage suitable for the diverse 
purposes of fishing, coasting, and exploring. ^ In the 
Columbine Library at Seville there is a map of Espafiola 
drawn with a pen. In two places are seen outline 
sketches of three sailing craft. Competent critics 
affirm that these sketches were made by Columbus, 
and depict his squadron of three during his first voyage 
to the West in 1492. If this opinion be correct, then it 
is certain that the first ship was three-masted, so was 
the second — doubtless the Santa Maria, the biggest of 
the three — but the third ship is only two-masted. The 
first and second ships have a small square foresail on 
the foremast ; square mainsail and topsail on the 
main, with a lateen on the mizzen. But the third ship 
has a lateen on both masts. 

The Santa Maria carried a crew of seventy, together 
with artillery and stores enough for one year. In 
addition she had a large amount of merchandise, 
which she could barter with the natives. Her dis- 
placement has been estimated as about 200 tons, and 
some modern writers have suggested that this was all 
too small a ship to cross the Atlantic. Columbus, 
however, thought otherwise ; for on his second voyage 
he had demanded smaller vessels, his reason being 
that those of his first expedition, on account of their 
size and draught, had caused him so much anxiety. 
As to the canvas which the Santa Maria carried, this 
matter is instantly settled by reference to Columbus's 
own log. If we refer to his entry dated Wednesday, 
October 24, we find that : " I remained thus with little 
wind until the afternoon, when it began to blow fresh. 

^ Far from having been expressly built for exploration^ the Santa Maria had 
been constructed for the well-known trading voyages to Flanders. The Pinta 
and Nina had been built for the Mediterranean trade. 



I set all the sails in the ship, the mainsail with two 
bonnets, the foresail, spritsail, mizzen, maintopsail, and 
the boat's sail on the poop." (The bonnets were 
additional pieces of canvas laced on to the foot of the 

The time on board was evidently kept by hour- 
glasses of half or a whole hour. Thus under date of 
Tuesday, January 22, when homeward bound, his log 
reads : " They made 8 miles an hour during five 
glasses . . . afterwards they went N.E. by N. for six 
glasses. . . . Then during four glasses of the second 
watch N.E. at six miles an hour." But the reader 
must be cautious not to accept the speed given as 
conclusive. One of the greatest drawbacks to naviga- 
tion in those days was the absence of any instrument 
which would record the speed through the water. 
The log had yet to be invented, and the mariner could 
only make a conjectural estimate of the ship's speed by 
looking over the side and noting the time it took the 
bubbles to come aft from the bow, or by throwing a 
piece of wood overboard from the bows and noticing 
how long it took for the stern to be abreast of that 
object. Many a steamship traveller gambling on the 
ship's speed does the same thing to-day ; many a 
fore-and-aft sailorman with no patent log still employs 
a similar method. 

Columbus's journal shows the kind of helmsman 
which he had to put up with. On September 9, when 
the ship's course was west, the narrator on board wrote : 
" The sailors steered badly, letting the ship fall off to 
N.E., and even more ; respecting which the Admiral 
complained many times." On September 13 Columbus 
observed a variation in the compass. " On this day, 

' Sir Clements Markbam states that the bonnet was usually cut one-third the 
size of the mizzen, or one-quarter of the mainsail, being secured to the leach by 
eyelet holes. 


") J - 3 3 

• ,',3 3 ) J . 

• I •> ' '3 , , . . 
' ' ^333 ,3 3,3 l\ ;',3 3 3,3^ 

Fifteenth-Century Cahavel. 

Drawn from a woodcut after a delineation by Columbus in the Latin translation of Ids letter dated 
March 1, 1493, to Don Raphael de Sanxis (Treasurer of the Kin -^ of Spain), in the Library at Milano. 

(See next plate.) 

p 158 


at the commencement of the night, the needles turned 
a half point to N.W., and in the morning they turned 
somewhat more N.W." For up till then no one had 
observed the variation of the needle. 

No navigator could have been more careful than 
Columbus. Ever on the alert, he was far too anxious 
about the safety of his fleet to neglect one single pre- 
caution. As they voyaged, the difference in the salt- 
ness of the sea was noted ; and though for eleven days 
the wind blew steadily from aft so that the sails re- 
quired no trimming, yet all the while Columbus was 
busy with astrolabe and sounding lead endeavouring 
to fix his position in regard to the land which they had 
long since left. From Wednesday, February 13, till 
the following Saturday, he never slept a wink, being 
far too anxious to leave the navigation to others. The 
pilots of the Nina and Pinta on the voyage out used to 
work out their positions for themselves. On September 
19 the Nina made the Canaries to be 440 leagues 
astern, the Pinta estimated the distance as 420, but 
on board Columbus's ship the reckoning was 400 
leagues, and this was the most correct of the three. 
(It should be added that Columbus used Italian miles, 
reckoning four Italian miles to one league.) He com- 
pared notes with the pilots under him, and manoeuvred 
his ship so that the captain of the Pinta was able to 
pass his chart on board the Santa Maria at the end of a 
line. Columbus, after conferring with his own pilots 
and mariners, plotted on the chart the position of the 
ship. Here and there all the way through Columbus's 
journal, both in those lines written by his own hand 
and in those in another handwriting, there rises up, 
quite clearly, evidence of the knowledge which this 
man had been collecting before setting out. " The 
admiral was aware," says the Journal, " that most of 
the islands held by the Portuguese were discovered by 



the flight of birds." Just as the Viking seamen had 
discovered land in exactly the reverse manner — by 
letting loose birds from the ship. 

Nor are there lacking plenty of references to the 
seamanship of these times — the kind of seamanship, 
we may not unjustly assume, that was employed alike 
by the Spanish traders who crossed the Bay of Biscay, 
and sailed up the English Channel to Flanders, and 
those who went exploring to the southward. No one 
better than these medieval and Elizabethan sailormen 
appreciated the importance of having a ship that 
would heave-ho in bad weather or at night. You will 
remember that dramatic incident at the end of Colum- 
bus's first voyage across the Atlantic, when the distant 
light, as of a candle going up and down in the hand of 
someone proceeding from one house to another, indi- 
cated that at last the new land had been found. " At 
two hours after midnight," says the log, " the land 
was sighted." Then (continues the narrative), " they 
shortened sail, and lay by under mainsail without the 
bonnets. The vessels were hove-to waiting for day- 

And again, when on the homeward voyage after 
the loss of the Santa Maria the Nina was caught in 
a heavy gale of wind, we find from her log that she 
stowed canvas, but " carried the mainsail very closely 
reefed, so as just to give her steerage- way, and pro- 
ceeded thus for three hours, making 20 miles." During 
that same dreadful night, when they all but foundered, 
Columbus kept showing lanterns to the Pinta, which 
answered back by the same method. " The want of 
ballast increased the danger of the ship, which had 
become light owing to the consumption of provisions 
and water," so they filled with sea water the barrels 
which had contained wine and drinking water, and 
employed these to steady the vessel. " Afterwards," 


continues the same narrative, " in the showers and 
squalls, the wind veered to the west, and they went 
before it, with only the foresail, in a very confused sea 
for five hours. They made 2j leagues N.E. They had 
taken in the reefed mainsail, for fear some wave of the 
sea should carry all away." And when the weather 
presently moderated, Columbus " added the bonnet to 
the mainsail." 

The Santa Maria, with her high poop and forecastle, 
was not a particularly dry ship. On September 8, 
when outward bound, her log admits that near Teneriffe 
she " took in much sea over the bows." But whether 
that was through bad seamanship or bad luck one 
cannot say. It is certain that, at any rate, the 
crew were very far from perfect in their art ; other- 
wise the Santa Maria would never have been wrecked 
in that totally inexcusable manner. It was not the 
fault of Columbus. He had not had any rest for two 
days and a night, and those of us who have been cease- 
lessly on watch for that time, know how great a strain 
it puts on a man's eyes and nerves and physical en- 
durance. So, as the wind was very light, Columbus 
went below at eleven o'clock that night. It was so 
beautifully fine, and the sea was so calm, that the 
steersman also was tempted to sleep ; and, giving the 
tiller in charge of a boy, he shut his eyes and dozed off. 
This was distinctly contrary to Columbus's orders, for 
the boys were forbidden ever to touch the helm. At 
midnight, you will remember, there was a flat calm, 
but still imperceptibly the poor Santa Maria was being 
carried on to a sandbank by the current. Very gently 
she took the ground, but when the boy noticed that 
the helm refused to move, but that the tide was rushing 
by the ship and tumbling over the shoal, he became 
alarmed and cried out. Up came Columbus from his 
cabin under the poop, who, taking in the situation at a 

M 161 


glance, began to give his orders in a cool and seaman- 
like manner. The first command showed that he 
knew his business, when he had ordered a boat on the 
poop to be lowered, and the crew to " lay out an anchor 
astern," as the log states, to haul her off. But the men 
in the boat, being less anxious for the safety of the ship 
than for their own bodies, paid no regard to the kedging 



of the Santa Maria, but rowed off to the next ship. 
Then, finally, Columbus was compelled to order the 
masts to be cut away, and the ship to be lightened ; 
but it was of no avail. The water rose inside, and her 
timbers opened. But right to the end Columbus the 
discoverer showed that he was every bit as fine a 
seaman as he was a clever navigator. 

If we would endeavour to fill in the details to our 


mental picture of the Santa Maria, we can find much 
that is interesting. We have already been thinking of 
her as a three-masted caravel. Let us step on board 
and tread her single deck at the waist between the 
foremast and main. As we examine the gear we shall 
find it rough but strong. The cordage is of hemp, the 
masts are serviceable, but only rudely finished. The 
mainmast measures 2 J feet in diameter, whilst the 
yards — like the yard of the lateen - rigged craft — 
follow the historic custom of the Mediterranean of 
being made of two pieces lashed together at the centre. 
Aloft flies the admiral's flag of Columbus, and this 
he always carried in his hand when going ashore to 
take possession of newly discovered territory. 

The hull seems to have been constructed somewhat 
roughly, and iron nails are already showing their rusty 
contact with the sea water. There is precious little 
ornamentation, too, for there was not much decoration 
expended on ships in those days, and certainly not on a 
Flemish merchantman. The hull was painted with 
tar, whilst below the water-line it was greased so as to 
minimise the friction through the water. To do this 
it was customary to beach the ship, and on two occa- 
sions during his voyage Columbus saw that this was 
done. On deck a couple of hatchways led to the hold. 
The quarter-deck extended from about midships to the 
stern, and above this rose the poop-deck. On the 
latter were the quarters of the admiral. We know from 
this journal that Columbus's bed was draped in red, and 
that there was certainly room for several persons to be 
seated in this cabin. There was a press for his clothes, 
a stool, a couple of chairs, and a dining-table for two 
persons, the furniture being all fashioned in the Gothic 
style which was then prevalent. Add to this inventory 
charts and books, as well as an astrolabe, and you have 
the picture of his cabin complete. 



When getting under way, the Santa Maria shipped 
her anchor by means of the fore yard-arm. In those 
days there was of course no steering wheel, but the 
tiller came right in under the quarter-deck, and a bar 
was attached to the forward end of the tiller. There 
is and has been for so many centuries such a close 
relation between ships and hammocks that it is interest- 
ing to observe that hammocks were introduced by 
Columbus and his companions after contact with the 
West Indians, who were accustomed to use them. We 
cannot, indeed, envy the life of the seamen on these 
Columbine ships. There was certainly a galley made 
of brick with an iron cross-piece, but the food, which 
consisted of bacon, beans, salt fish, cheese, and bread, 
was, thanks to the heat and damp of the hold, in a 
very bad condition. 

We shall speak in greater detail on a later page con- 
cerning the astrolabe, but whilst we are considering 
these fifteenth-century ships and the surprisingly good 
landfalls which Columbus made, it is worth while to 
remember that observations were frequently made 
only with great difficulty. " The North Star," says 
the log, " appeared very high, as it does off Cape St. 
Vincent. The Admiral was unable to take the altitude 
either with the astrolabe or with the quadrant, because 
the rolling caused by the waves prevented it." We 
cannot be positively sure of all the crew which sailed 
on board the Santa Maria, for some of the papers which 
could have helped the historian are missing. But, 
in addition to Columbus, she carried one master, two 
pilots, a surgeon, a quartermaster, a clerk, an inter- 
preter, a carpenter, a caulker, a cooper, a steward, a 
gunner, and a bugler, as well as the gentlemen adven- 
turers, their servants, and the seamen. 

There was a never-failing fear of fire on these ships, 
and stringent rules forbade lights after dark, except one 

, ' ' , ' ' > 3 

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Fifteenth-Century Caravel. 

Tliis is tlie ?ame sliiji as in tlie preceding plate, hut shows mizzen set. 

p. 164 


for the helmsman and one below deck when carefully 
protected by a lantern. Columbus's ship carried a lantern 
at the stern, mica being used at first and subsequently 
glass. There was a strong religious atmosphere that 
must not be lost sight of in considering the ship life as 
exhibited on board Columbus's fleet. Dominating the 
whole expedition was the intention to glorify God, to 
spread His kingdom on earth. As you read through 
this log you find the crew mustering to sing the " Salve " 
before the statue of Our Lady — " Stella Maris." On her 
festivals, and on such historic occasions as when he 
made land, Columbus was wont to dress ship. So, too, 
before the expedition left the mother-land for the 
Indies, every man made his will and went to confession 
and communion, so that he might come on board in a 
state of grace. And there were stringent rules on 
board to prevent blasphemy, excessive gambling, or 
doing anything to the dishonour of the king. 

Equally illustrative of the ways and methods of 
the seamen at the end of the fifteenth and the begin- 
ning of the sixteenth centuries are Columbus's letters 
dealing with his subsequent voyages. One of these 
letters he concludes thus : " Done on board the 
caravel off the Canary Islands," and signs himself 
" The Admiral." Some idea of the speed of his ship 
during his second voyage to the West Indies may 
be seen from the letter addressed to the Chapter of 
Seville by Dr. Chanca, physician to the fleet, in which 
he states that in two days, with fair wind and weather, 
they made fifty leagues. But the Capitana was such 
a slow sailer that many times the others had to shorten 
sail. On the first voyage the Nina similarly had to 
wait for the Pinta to catch her up, and this lack of 
homogeneity in the fleet certainly lost them much time. 

In order to ensure a careful look-out being kept, a 
handsome reward had been promised to the first man 



sighting land. This was claimed " on the first Sunday 
after All Saints, namely, the third of November, about 
dawn," when a pilot of the Capitana cried out : " The 
reward ! I see the land." Of all the ship's company, 
Columbus himself excepted, the pilots were the smartest 
and most skilful men, who " could navigate to or from 
Spain " " by their knowledge of the stars." We see 
Columbus on his third voyage displaying all those 
characteristics of the cautious manner which had 
distinguished him already. There was little enough 
that he left to chance. WTien he was entering a strange 
haven, he used to send a boat out ahead in order to 
take soundings. (His ship the Santa Maria had a 
large boat about 30 feet long which was usually 
towed astern, and a smaller boat about 10 feet long 
which was hoisted on deck.) " I passed thirty-three 
days without natural rest," he writes in connection 
with his second voyage. 

Speaking of his navigation during the third voyage, 
he tells us that " at the end of these eight days it 
pleased our Lord to give me a favourable east wind, and 
I steered to the west, but did not venture to move 
lower down towards the south, because I discovered a 
very great change in the sky and stars. ... I re- 
solved, therefore, to keep on the direct westward 
course in a line from Sierra Leone, and not to change it 
until I reached the point where I had thought I should 
find land." On the return journey he writes : " As to 
the Polar Star, I watched it with great wonder, and 
devoted many nights to a careful examination of it 
with the quadrant, and I always found that the lead 
and line fell to the same point ! " And as he sailed he 
wondered in his mind. Where never a ship, never a 
man had voyaged before Columbus had gone. What, 
after all, was the shape of this earth ? "I have always 
read," he says, " that the world comprising the land 

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and water was spherical, and the recorded experiences 
of Ptolemy and all others have proved this by the 
eclipses of the moon, and other observations made 
from east to west, as well as by the elevation of the 
pole from north to south. But ... I have come to 
another conclusion . . . namely, that it is not round 
as they describe, but of the form of a pear." 

For his fourth voyage he had most favourable 
weather. He got from Cadiz to the Canaries in four 
days, and thence to the West Indies in sixteen days. 
But then a great storm came down and lasted eighty- 
eight days, during which " my ships lay exposed, with 
sails torn, and anchors, rigging, cables, boats, and a 
great quantity of provisions lost." Finally, on January 
24, his ship broke both her cables and her bollards. 
" I departed in the name of the Holy Trinity, on Easter 
night, with the ships rotten, worm-eaten, and full of 
holes " . . . " and in this condition I had to cross 
7000 miles of sea." " My ships were pierced with 
worm-holes, like a bee-hive." " With three pumps, 
and the use of pots and kettles, we could scarcely with 
all hands clear the water that came into the ship, there 
being no remedy but this for the mischief done by the 
ship worm . . . the other ship was half under water." 
But Columbus never lost heart, never failed to believe 
in scientific navigation. Where had he got to ; whither 
had his ship attained ? "I ascertained, however, by 
the compass and by observation, that I moved parallel 
with the coast of terra firma." " There is a mode of 
reckoning," he observes, " derived from astronomy 
which is sure and safe, and a sufficient guide to anyone 
who understands it." 

And there are two very interesting comments which 
he makes as a seaman rather than a navigator that 
ought certainly to be noticed. The first occurs in his 
initial voyage across the Atlantic ; the second in a 



letter dealing with this last cruise. " Many times the 
caravel Nina had to wait for the Pinta,^^ runs the 
narrative, " because she sailed badly when on a bow- 
line,^ the mizzen being of little use owing to the weak- 
ness of the mast." ..." The India vessels do not sail 
except with the wind abaft, but this is not because 
they are badly built or clumsy, but because the strong 
currents in those parts, together with the wind, render 
it impossible to sail with the bowline, for in one day 
they would lose as much way as they might have made 
in seven ; for the same reason I could make no use of 
caravels, even though they were Portuguese lateens." 
It will be remembered that the Nina had started out 
originally as a lateener, but this triangular-shaped sail 
was changed at Grand Canary to a squaresail before 
crossing the Atlantic. To " sail on a bowline " was to 
sail on a wind. In those days, when the cut of the 
squaresail was very bad, bowlines were really necessary 
for stretching the sails so that they set a flat surface 
without too much belly. The Pinta was apparently all 
right when running before the wind, but not much good 
closehauled, owing to the fact that the mizzen-mast could 
not endure the strain. And similarly with reference to 
the second statement, Columbus makes it perfectly 
clear that these vessels had to be sailed " ramping full 
as we should say nowadays ; it was useless to try to 
" pinch " them. 

^ The italics are mine. 

55 , 




MAKE no apology to the 
reader for having taken up 
so much of his time in a con- 
sideration of the methods 
which obtained during the 
time of Christopher Colum- 
bus, not merely because by 
his splendid seamanship and 
navigation a new world was 
revealed to the old, but be- 
cause of the two arts in 
question at the time when 
the Middle Ages were beginning to ebb into obscurity, 
he was one of the finest if not the very best exponent. 
Not that he was very amply rewarded for his wondrous 
achievements. Although it is true he did receive other 
remuneration, yet his pay was only at the rate of 
1600 francs per annum, and that of his two captains 
was but 960 francs. The crew's wages were from 12 
to 25 francs a month in addition to their mess allow- 

But now we find ourselves in the sixteenth century. 
Thanks to the new interest in nautical matters which 
had been aroused by Prince Henry the Navigator, 
thanks to the marvellous and true yarns which ocean- 
going skippers brought back of their discoveries, there 



began a new sort of profession for men who were 
at all attracted to the sea. It was a profession which, 
obviously, could not exist for many, nor last for many 
centuries. But for those who were wearied of shore 
monotony, who had ambition and dash and loved 
adventure, there was a keen fascination in becoming one 
of that great band of " new land seekers." Charles V, 
you will remember, became King of Spain in the year 
1517, while the period of 1485 to 1547 was covered by 
the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII of England. 
Not till the year 1555 did Charles V retire into the 
monastery of Yuste. Besides the influence of these 
three remarkable men at a critical time of the world's 
history, there was also roaming over Europe that Re- 
naissance movement which, checked here and there, 
could not be utterly constrained when it spread itself 
over shipping. Or, to change altogether the metaphor, 
spring was in the air : the buds were about to burst 
forth into the glorious flowers of new colonies. 

And since it was obvious that discovery had to be 
made by traversing long expanses of ocean, and that 
this could only be done by a sound knowledge of 
>^ navigation, those in authority were not slow to realise 

that lectures and instruction on this subject at home 
meant presently an increase of territory and wealth 
across the seas. Prince Henry on his promontory had 
been the first to grasp this. Now also Charles V not 
only established a Pilot Major for the examination 
of those who sought to take ships to the West Indies, 
but also founded a lecture on the art of navigation 
which was given in the Contractation House at Seville. 
Those anxious to qualify as pilots had to learn 
thoroughly the use of the astrolabe and quadrant, 
and obtain a thorough grasp of the theory and practice 
of sailing a ship from one port to another out of sight 
of land. For this instruction they had to pay fees, but 

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Sixteenth-Century Caravel at Anchor. 

After the Woodcut of Hansen Bur^niair. 

>. 170 


it more than repaid them many times over when they 
were able to bring back such valuable commodities. 
Furthermore, as experience gains knowledge, so every 
voyage taught them something of their art which 
hitherto they had not known — the direction of a 
current, the state of the moon when high tide occurred 
at such and such an hour, the depth of those new har- 
bours they had entered, the position of the outlying 
shoals, the landmarks on shore, the temper of the 
natives, the kind of commodities which could be 
obtained in the districts, and so on. The pilots brought 
all these details home at the end of every voyage, made 
the necessary corrections in the charts (and this not 
by choice, but by compulsion), so that always there 
was being compiled a set of sailing directions and an 
ever improving bundle of charts which were simply 
invaluable to State and seamen alike. 

Thus also there came to be published treatises and 
manuals on the seaman's art, for the instruction of a 
community that numbered very few sailors in propor- 
tion to its landsmen. Such authors as Martin Cortes, 
Alonso de Chavez, Hieronymo de Chavez, Roderigo Zamo- 
rano in time WTote these works, and their influence not 
merely on Spain, but upon England, was considerable, 
until the English seamen of the time of Elizabeth had 
produced such nautical experts of their own that they 
were able to write better books themselves. But even 
prior to that time England had begun to see the wisdom 
of Spain ; and Henry VIII, following the example of 
Charles V, " for the increase of knowledge in his Sea- 
men, with princely liberalities erected three severall 
Guilds or brotherhoods, the one at Deptford here upon 
the Thames, the other at Kingston upon Hull, and the 
third at Newcastle upon Tine." So, indeed, states 
Hakluyt. That at Deptford was hcensed in 1513, 
" in honour of the Holy Trinity and St. Clement in the 



Church of Deptford Stronde for reformation of the 
Navy lately much decayed by admission of young men 
without experience, and of Scots, Flemings, and French- 
men as loadsmen." Navy is used here in its literal 
sense, meaning shipping as a whole. The word " loads- 
men " — otherwise " leadsmen " — was the customary 
expression in the North of Europe for pilot. To this 
day the Dutch word for pilot is " loods," " lood " being 
the Dutch for lead. What does this signify ? It shows 
— does it not ? — that until, thanks to Spain, the 
astrolabe began to be used in Northern Europe, the 
pilot was not so much he who found his way by fixing 
his position from the heavenly bodies, but he who felt 
his way by the sounding of the lead. In a sentence, 
then, whilst of course the lead and line are essential 
even to modern navigation, yet historically they belong 
to the Middle Ages and right back to Greece and even 
earlier; while the astrolabe and the finding of a ship's 
latitude are essentially the beginning of that new order 
of things which we have already noted. So long 
as ships were content to do little more than coasting 
they had no need of an astrolabe ; but as a lead and 
line are not much good to one who navigates the 
Atlantic to the West Indies, so the new species of 
voyaging coincided with the new instrument for ascer- 
taining a ship's position. 

What, then, was the astrolabe ? It was an instru- 
ment used for taking the altitude of the sun and stars. 
For two hundred years before it was used by the 
Christian seamen of the Mediterranean, it had been 
employed by the Arabian pilots in the eastern seas. 
The derivation of such a curious word is not without 
interest. The Arabic is " asthar-lab," and this in turn 
came from the two Greek words, aa-Trip and Xaju/Bapco, 
meaning " to take a star." It consisted of a flat brass 
ring, some 15 inches in diameter, of which an ex- 

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A Sixteenth-Century Astrolabe. 

This instrument, in the S. Kens n<;ton Mtiseum, is supposed actually to have been on board 
one of the shijjs of the Spanish Armada. 




cellent illustration can here be seen. It was graduated 
along the rim in degrees and minutes, fitted with two 
sights. There was a movable index which turned on 
the centre and marked the angle of elevation. When 

Astrolabe used by the English Navigators of the 
Sixteenth Century. 

the mariner wished to take the height of the sun with 
this instrument he proceeded as follows : The sun being 
near the meridian or south, the pilot observed the same 
until it reached its greatest height. Then, holding the 
ring on one of his fingers, he turned the alhidada up 



and down until he saw the shadow of the sun pass 
through both the sights thereof, being sure that the 
astrolabe hung upright. The astrolabe was best for 
taking the height of the sun when the sun was very 
high at 60, 70, or 80 degrees ; for the sun, coming 
near " unto your zenith," has great power of light for 
piercing the two sights of the alhidada of the astrolabe, 
and then it was not good to use the cross-staff (reference 
to which will be made below), because the sun hurt a 
man's eyes and was also too high for the cross-staff. 
Furthermore the astrolabe, was a more correct method 
than that of the cross-staff. 

It was thanks to the aid of Martin Behaim, a dis- 
tinguished cosmographer who came to Lisbon to co- 
operate with the learned men there assembled, that 
an improved sea astrolabe was adapted for the purpose 
of determining the distance from the Equator, by means 
of the altitude of the sun or stars at sea. There had, 
indeed, been in use for some time a land astrolabe for 
finding the latitude of a place, and it was but a natural 
advance that this instrument should be adapted for use 
on board ship, so that the mariner might be able to 
ascertain his position on the vast expanse of trackless 
ocean. We are all most ready to admire and extol the 
men and the ships which made such daring voyages 
and discoveries in the past ; but I submit that nothing 
like adequate recognition has been paid to the essential 
value of the astrolabe and cross-staff, or their successor, 
the modern sextant. Even if in those days which 
marked the close of the Middle Ages there had suddenly 
been invented and built a whole .fleet of turbine steam- 
ships with capable crews, yet still without the instru- 
ment of finding latitude they could have had only vague 
ideas as to their position and would only have been able 
to produce unsatisfactory charts. Indeed, as a modern 
writer has remarked, it was this improved sea astrolabe 


which " removed the last doubt in Columbus's mind as 
to the possibility of carrying out his plans of discovery." 

Thus it came about that the man who could work 
an astrolabe was a person of some importance. He 
was held in high honour by the crew, since he alone was 
able to state the ship's position and her course thence 
to her nearest port. Naturally, therefore, those Arabian 
pilots and Oriental astronomers who had been brought 
to the Iberian peninsula would go swaggering along 
the streets of Lisbon wearing these sea-rings con- 
spicuously both as their badge of office and as indicative 
of their dignity. It was Behaim's astrolabe which was 
used by Columbus, by Vasco da Gama, by Diaz, and 
others in their stupendous voyages : and still more 
valuable was it with the addition of the tables of the 
sun's declination, first reduced by Behaim also. Never- 
theless, we must not omit to bear in mind that as far 
back as the eighth century Messahala, a learned Rabbi, 
had already written a treatise on the astrolabe, and 
that even earlier still — in the sixth century B.C. — the 
astrolabe for use on shore had been invented by Hip- 
parchus. But had the achievements of the ancients 
much influence, do you ask, on the cosmographers and 
astronomers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries ? 
The answer is most certainly in the affirmative ; and 
the greatest experts of this period had a very complete 
knowledge of the work of their predecessors. 

But for the same purpose of taking the height of the sun 
there was employed an instrument called the cross- 
staff; of which the Spanish word (adapted from the 
Greek) was the " balla. stella." The drawback to the 
astrolabe was that it was difficult to use it with ac- 
curacy owing to the rolling and pitching of the ship. 
Therefore the cross-staff, being more steadily held in 
the hand, began to supersede the astrolabe. Bourne, 
the famous Elizabethan navigational expert, insisted 



that because the sea " causeth the shippe to heave " 
the best way to take the sun's height was with the cross- 
staff : furthermore, the degrees on this instrument were 
marked larger than on the astrolabe. Also in a larger 
instrument an error was seen sooner. The method of 
use in taking the height of the sun, he explained, was 
as follows : Note with your compass the sun when the 
latter approaches the meridian. When it has arrived 
at S. by E. then begin to take the sun's height thus : 

A Sixteenth-Century Navigator using the Cross-staff. 

Put the " transitorie " (or cross-piece) on the long staff, 
set the end of the long staff close to the eye, " winking 
with your other eye," and then move the transitory 
forwards or backwards until you see the lower end 
of it (" being just with the horizon ") and the upper 
end of it (" being just with the middle of the sun "), 
" both to agree with the sunne and the horizon at one 
time." Observe the same until you see the sun at the 
highest and beginning to descend. You have then 


It is not my intention to digress from the path of 
historical continuity, but let the reader bear in mind 
how very little the navigator of this period had to help 
him. He had the compass for indicating the direction 

- ^ t I f ?>• it- 

*«■ ,^- 

A Sixteenth-Century Compass Card. 

of the ship's head, and he had the astrolabe and cross- 
staff for showing him his altitude. But two intensely 
important data he could not yet obtain accurately : 
(1) his longitude, and (2) the distance run by the ship 
in any given time. Very great errors were made in both 

N 177 


of these. It was not until the introduction of the log- 
Hne in the seventeenth century that a ship could tell 
with even approximate accuracy her daily run. For 
many a long year all the cunning Jews and Arabs, all 
the philosophers, the astronomers and physicians, all 
the cleverest men out of Portugal, Spain, Genoa, 
Venice, and the Balearic Isles had tried but failed 
to solve this proposition. And the coming of the per- 
fect chronometer for finding the longitude was delayed 
even longer still. 

Every modern deep-sea navigator is familiar with 
what is known as Great Circle Sailing. For the lands- 
man it may be sufficient to explain that this principle 
seems to contradict Euclid's assertion that the shortest 
distance between any two points is a straight line. 
In the case of a globe this statement of Euclid does 
not apply. Every steamer between Liverpool and 
New York to-day sails on a great circle for the most 
part of her passage. " Great circles " are those whose 
plane passes through the centre of the earth : for 
example, the Equator is a " great circle." Now as far 
back as the year 1497 Pedro Nunez made the startling 
but true announcement that in sailing from one port 
to another the shortest course was along an arc of a 
great circle of the terrestrial sphere. And this fact was 
appreciated by such Elizabethan navigators as John 
Davis in his voyaging across the North Atlantic. 

The training of a navigator such as went on in Seville 
was very thorough, so that it formed an excellent pre- 
cedent for all who had at heart the education of the 
complete navigator. The training in the year 1636 was 
a three-year course, and the following curriculum is 
given for that year by Sir Clements Markham in his 
" Sea Fathers " :— 

First Year : (1) The sphere of Sacrobosco. (2) The 
four rules of Arithmetic : Rule of three, extraction of 

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KT|R VI<,rT 

An Old Nocturnal. 

Ill the S. Kensington JInseuni. 



square root, cube root, and fractions. (3) The theory 
of Purbach, or planets and ecHpses. (4) The spherical 
trigonometry of Regiomontanus. (5) The Almagest of 

Second Year : (1) The first six books of Euclid. (2) 
Arcs and chords, right sines, tangents and secants. 
(3) To complete Regiomontanus and Ptolemy. 

Third Year : (1) Cosmography and navigation. (2) 
Use of astrolabe. (3) The methods of observing the 
movements of heavenly bodies. (4) The use of the 
globe and of mathematical instruments. (5) The con- 
struction of a watch. 

It must not be forgotten that the life on board a 
Tudor ship was, even for rough, rude, untutored sea- 
men, full of hardships, even if full of adventure. Any- 
one who cares to look through the records of the 
voyages can see this for himself. We are accustomed 
to regard that as a romantic age ; but the romance 
is only visible through the avenue of distance which 
now separates us from those times. The victualling 
was disgracefully mismanaged at the beginning of the 
sixteenth century. The crews of ships were actually 
allowed to fight in the English Channel for their country 
in a condition that was almost sheer starvation. Actually 
the commissariat department was so bad that ships 
had to return home from the region of battle to fetch 
supplies. There was nothing very romantic, either, in 
having to serve on ships which exuded a terrible stench 
from their holds. A horrible mixture of bilge-water 
and decayed food, coupled with the heat of the galley, 
helped to make the health of the Tudor sailorman any- 
thing but good. 

Henry VII had done his best to encourage enter- 
prising shipbuilders by giving them a bounty on the 
tonnage built, and there is a record of at least one ship's 
smith being given an annuity for his services to the 



king's ships. This, Hke many other customs, had been 
derived from Spain. Still, for all that, the warships 
put to sea with so many leaks that " the water cam 
in as it wer in a seve." And there was no dry dock 
until Henry VII built the first at Portsmouth with 
timber gates and " one ingyn to draw water owte of 
the seid dokke." When they went forth to the naval 
wars of this period they fought with bows, arrows, 
spears and demi-lances, morris-pikes, halberds, bills, 
guns (including falcons and harquebuses). There were 
rammers and powder for the guns, and shot of iron, 
stone, and lead, artillery having been recently intro- 
duced. Portholes had also been introduced in the 
reign of Henry VII, and the passing of the Viking type 
of ship to that of a bigger, more seaworthy type, with 
high-charged stern and bow, was the beginning of a 
new order of things. Gradually the merchantman 
became separated from the pure warship, and cannon 
took the place of the hand-to-hand encounter. But 
these changes came only by slow stages. 

In the time of Henry VIII England was still leaning 
on the work of the foreign shipwright. Spain, Genoa, 
Venice, and the Hanseatic League all helped. The 
arsenal at Venice at this time was a wonderful depot 
for shipping — wonderful in its completeness and system- 
atisation. There was everything always ready here 
for the ship to be used at a moment's notice. Over a 
hundred ship-houses were there, containing all the 
component parts of craft. Armouries, foundries, rope- 
works, workshops, stores of timber, provisions, and 
munitions of war — it was all done on a big scale. Such 
was the perfection of organisation that the master- 
carpenters and their men actually demonstrated their 
ability to put together all the detached parts of a galley 
— rigging included — in less than a couple of hours. 

Spain supplied a good deal of the iron for the anchors 


and guns of England until our forefathers quarried for 
themselves. Thanks to Continental influence, a know- 
ledge of artillery was growing up in England and em- 
ployed usefully on board our ships of war. Had you 
met any of these craft at sea you would have been struck 
by the painted sails, bearing the picture of a saint or 
whatever device the admiral preferred. Those high 
forecastles and poops were also most splendidly deco- 
rated, so likewise the shields round the upper part of 
the castles were emblazoned with the arms and devices 
of the admiral. There were flags bravely flying on the 
forecastle, on the poop, and amidships ; from the main- 
top a broad swallow-tailed standard flew bearing the 
admiral's devices and reaching down to the water. 
Every mast had its bunting, and for celebrating a 
triumph the ship was still further draped with rich 
cloth. Thus she looked, with her many flags fluttering 
in the wind, more like a fair-ground than an instru- 
ment of war. 

Such a ship as the famous Great Harry (1500 tons) 
carried quite a big company — 400 soldiers, 260 sailors, 
and 40 gunners. Admirals and captains were still rather 
military officers and courtiers than sailors, though the 
masters were responsible for the handling of the ship. 
On this same vessel there were below the rank of master 
the following ratings : master's mate, four pilots, four 
quartermasters, quartermasters' mates, boatswain and 
boatswain's mate, cockswain and his mate, master- 
carpenter and his mate, under-carpenter, two caulkers, 
purser, three stewards, three cooks, cooks' mates, two 
yeomen of the stryks (ropes) and their mates, and two 
yeomen of the ports with their mates. Some sort of 
uniform was worn by the officers, consisting of green 
and white coats — the Tudor colours. 

In Henry VIII's time dockyards were established at 
Woolwich, Erith, and Deptford, as well as at Portsmouth. 



Originally the custom was to lay up the ships in the 
autumn and fit out in the spring ; but at this time the 
excellent practice of keeping some ships cruising the 
Channel in the winter months was developed. The rate 
of pay in Henry VIII's navy allowed the admiral ten 
shillings a day and a captain one and sixpence a day, 
while the wages of each soldier, mariner, and gunner 
were five shillings a month plus five shillings a month 
for victuals. Conduct money for those who had to 
travel long distances to join their ships was at the rate 
of sixpence a day, twelve miles being reckoned as one 
day's journey. 

Copper and gilt ornamentations were added to the 
end of the bowsprit on Henry VIII's ships, says Mr. 
Oppenheim, whilst gilt crowns for the mastheads had 
been the practice for centuries. Before going into action 
a ship would sometimes coil her cable round the deck 
breast high and hang thereon mattresses and blankets 
as a kind of protection. And here we must say a word 
concerning the development of naval tactics. As in 
other maritime departments, so in regard to this Eng- 
land owed a great deal to Spanish influence. Naval 
warfare in the Mediterranean was already a science, 
and learned treatises had been written thereon. If the 
Spaniards were not a race of seamen by nature, at least 
they had developed the scientific side of the sailor's life 
in advance of the English. The awakening from 
medievalism in marine matters which had spread to 
our own shores not unnaturally aroused an interest in 
the proper manner of controlling a fleet. The earliest 
set of fleet orders in English was that which appeared 
about the year 1530, written by Thomas Audley, and 
still preserved in a Harleian MS. This Thomas Audley 
wrote " A Book of Orders for the War both by 
Land and Sea," at the command of Henry VIII. In 
effect these orders are the final expression of English 


medieval ideas before the introduction of artillery 
and the practice of broadside fire had started a new 
school of modern tactics. Audley's fleet orders, based 
on the practice of previous centuries, insisted on the 
importance of getting the weather-gage of the enemy, 
laid down how to board an enemy — boarding in those 
days meaning, of course, engaging him in combat along- 
side — and denoted the sphere of an admiral's action. 

In 1543 appeared the " Book of War by Sea and Land," 
written by Jehan Bytharne, Gunner in Ordinary to the 
King. This contained a number of regulations for govern- 
ing the fleet, for ornamenting and painting the ships, 
and for the use of flags both for celebrating a triumph 
and — this is important — for the purpose of signalling, 
as, for example, informing the flagship when the enemy 
had been espied. Bear in mind that in the Spanish 
Navy flag signalling had, following the Spanish advance 
towards science, become alreadv a fine art. It is true 
that even in England this had been in vogue for cen- 
turies, and the earliest code is to be found in the " Black 
Book of the Admiralty," and dates from about 1340. 
But the Spanish system was less crude and elementary. 

By the middle of the sixteenth century naval tactics 
in England had advanced even further still, as the 
instructions issued in connection with the Battle of 
Shoreham indicate. They are too long to detail here, 
but it is noticeable that they show both a knowledge of 
the handling of ships and a mind that has escaped from 
medieval muddle. The arranging of the fleet in proper 
divisions, each with its own work to perform, the exact 
position which was to be maintained, and so on, are 
well worth consideration. And each division was to 
wear the St. George's ensign at a different place for pur- 
poses of recognition. Those in the first rank were to fly 
it from the fore-topmast, those in the second rank to 
wear it on the mainmast, and so on. 



During the latter half of the sixteenth century, when 
the autumn came round each year and most of the 
royal ships had ended their cruising till the following 
spring, it was customary to take these vessels round to 
the Medway. Even ships from Portsmouth were hither 
brought, and they lay moored in Gillingham Reach. 
This made a convenient and sheltered anchorage, and 
yet was not too far from the Tower of London. When 
the time arrived again for fitting out, the ammunition 
was put on board barges at the Tower and these, taking 
the ebb down the Thames and the flood up the Medway, 
discharged their load when tied up alongside the war- 
ships at Chatham. 

The great achievements of the Elizabethan seamen 
could not have occurred unless the English had been 
engaged in the seafaring life for years, since it is im- 
possible to make a landsman a sailor except after much 
training. The Armada would never have been defeated 
except for the superior seamanship and gunnery of our 
forefathers. Slowly, but surely, since the history of 
our country began, there had been growing up a nucleus 
of professional seamen. In Tudor times had there been 
no race of freight-carriers and fishermen, there would 
have been no virile body of men to fall back on in 
the hour of danger on the sea, for the merchant sailor 
often enough had an exciting passage before he landed 
his cargo safely in port. Both he and the simple fisher- 
man were liable to be assaulted on the sea by hordes 
of pirates. In the North Sea, the English Channel 
(especially in the vicinity of the Scilly Isles, where 
they swarmed), and off the Irish coast these sea-rovers 
were a terror to the peaceful, honest seaman. 

In addition to this, however, there sprang up what is 
nothing better than a legalised piracy. By a proclama- 
tion of 1557, any Englishman could fit out a squadron of 
ships against the enemies of the Crown, and when he 


had located these enemies on the high seas, could attack 
them and confiscate their ships and contents. Now this 
afforded a fine outlet for those imaginative seafarers 
who yearned for something more adventurous than 
catching fish. It was just the kind of life for those who 
gloried in adventure and wanted it on sea. It helped 
to turn the fisherman into a fighting man ; it was a 
training school for those who were presently to become 
the great sea captains and admirals, the gunners and 
able seamen of the great Elizabethan age. 






HE seamanship, the navigation, 
and the gunnery of the EHza- 
bethan age will ever be memor- 
able, not merely because they 
attained such excellence after cen- 
turies of imperfection, but because 
by a combination of these three 
arts the whole future of England 
was mapped out, her supremacy 
assured, and her colonial expan- 
sion begun. 

A four-masted warship of her 
reign Avas not a handy creature to control. She could 
fight and she could ride out an Atlantic gale, but she 
was clumsy; she was — even the best of her class — 
much addicted to rolling, owing to the fact that she 
possessed such immense weights above the water-line. 
She was certainly an improvement on the ships of 
Henry VII and VIII, but she was too cumbrous to be 
considered in any degree satisfactory. Before we pro- 
ceed to discuss the way they were handled, let us 
briefly survey the principal types of vessels on board 
which the men of this reign had to serve. 

There was, firstly, the " high-charged " man-of-war 
with her lofty poop and forecastle. A contemporary 
illustration shows such a vessel with guns protruding 

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Sixteenth-Century Four-Masted Ship. 

By a Contemporary Artist. 

p. 1S6 


from the stern and two tiers of guns running along 
either side of the ship. There were hght guns in the 
forecastle as well. That portion on the main deck 

Elizabethans Boarding an Enemy's Ship. 

between the break of the poop and forecastle was the 
waist, where the crew moved about and the ship's 
boats were stowed. In those days, when so much of 



the fighting was done at close quarters, and the enemy 
endeavoured so to manoeuvre his ship as to come 
alongside and pour his men on the other's deck, dealing 
out slaughter to all who should bar his way, it was the 
aim of the attacked ship to catch the invaders between 
two fires. The poop and forecastle being so well 
guarded and, by reason of their height, so difficult to 
assault, the enemy might possibly board the ship at 
the waist. But inasmuch as the after bulkhead of the 
forecastle and the forward bulkhead of the poop were 
pierced for quick-firing guns, the boarding party was 
likely to meet with a warm reception. As an additional 
obstacle to boarding, it was customary before a fight 
to stretch long red cloths over the waist. These 
cloths were edged on each side with calico, says an 
Elizabethan writer, and were allowed to hang several 
feet over the side all round the ship, being sometimes 
ornamented with devices or painted in various colours. 
Wooden barriers, called " close-fights," were also built 
across the ship's deck for repelling boarders, and were 
loopholed like the bulkheads. Furthermore, nettings 
were stretched across the ship to prevent any falling 
spars from dealing death to the crew. 

The tumble-home on these ships was excessive, but 
since they carried so many decks it was essential that 
the topmost should be as light as possible. But just 
as on a modern steamship the master can survey every- 
thing forward from the eminence of his bridge, so the 
Elizabethan captain, standing on the poop, was able 
to command the whole ship, to see ahead and to keep 
an eye on his men. There was no uniform colour for 
painting the Elizabethan hulls, Mr. Oppenheim says. 
Black and white, the Tudor colours green and white, 
red, and timber colour were all used. Sometimes a 
dragon or a lion gilded was at the beak-head, with 
the royal arms at the stern. On either side of the stern 


was a short gallery, on to which the captain could 
emerge from his cabin under the poop. The long tiller 
from the rudder came in under the poop, and was con- 

<jUisr jyi^Ci^ 

Illustration to show an Elizabethan Helmsman Steering a 

Ship by means of Whipstaff. 

(Sketched on board the rephca of the Revenge at Earl's Court.) 

trolled by a bar or whipstaff attached to this same 
tiller. " The roul," says James Lightbody in his 
Mariner's Jewel," published in 1695, " is that through 




which the whipstaff goeth, which is a piece of wood 
the steersman holdeth in his hand to steer withal." 
The man received his orders, as a rule, from the master 
of the ship, but when entering port the pilot would in- 
struct him how to steer. 

There was not very much room in the fo'k'sle — just 
enough to sleep a few of the crew and for stowing coils 
of rope and the like. The galley was erected at the 
bottom of the hold on a brick floor. Below the upper 
deck came the main deck. Here were disposed the 
heavier guns, and here the crew were berthed. Between 
this and the hold was a false orlop, where the bread- 
room and the cabins of the petty officers were placed. 
But what was perhaps especially noticeable about 
these ships was the extent to which the poop and the 
beak projected away from the hull. Consequently, not 
only did these craft roll, but they pitched considerably 
as well. The interiors of the cabins were painted green, 
and there was a certain amount of carving externally 
both at beak and stern. So much for the " high- 
charged " type of ship. 

But there was also the pinnesse or flush-decked 
species, such a craft as brought home to England the 
body of Sir Philip Sidney, and such a craft as often 
formed a unit in those long, perilous transatlantic 
voyages of discovery. These craft had no raised fore- 
castle other than, a small platform, and only a short 
quarter-deck. There was no such thing as triangular 
sails on the full-rigged ships of those days. There 
was, indeed, a spritsail, which was a squaresail set on 
a yard depending from the long, steeved bowsprit, 
and this was the only headsail. The foremast and main- 
mast each set a course and topsail, while the mizzen and 
bonaventure each carried a lateen fore-and-aft sail. 
The fore-topmast and main-topmast could be struck if 
necessary. Elizabethan prints show, situated just above 

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Sixteenth-Century Ship Chasing a Galley. 

By a Contpmporary Artist. The lead of tlie ropps, the pairals round tl.p masts, the i i^sins snd 
otlipr details are here most instructively shown. 

p 100 

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the lower yard on the bigger ships, a round top or 
platform from which quick-firing guns and arrows 
could be fired. At the yard-arms were sometimes fitted 
hooks, which, catching the enemy's rigging and sails, 
would do him considerable damage. 

The following represent the different types of 
" great ordinance " carried by a ship of war at this 
period : — 

Armament of an Elizabethan Ship 




in lbs. 

in lbs. 




Demi-cannon . . 






Demi-culverin . . 















But it was seldom that any ordnance greater than a 
demi-cannon was used on board ship. 

The guns were made of brass or iron, and were 
mounted on wooden carriages which had four wheels. 
They could be run in and out by means of tackles. In 
his interesting little book, " The Arte of Shooting in 
Great Ordnance," by William Bourne, published in 
1587, the author significantly speaks of " this barbarous 
and rude thing called the Art of Shooting in great 
Ordnaunce." This was the period, you will remem- 
ber, when arrows, bills, and pikes had not yet lost 
their admirers. He tells you in his preface that he has 
written this book because " we English men haue not 
beene counted but of late dales to become good Gunners, 
and the principall point that hath caused English men 
to be counted good Gunners hath been for that they 



are hardie or without fear about their ordnaunce : but 
for the knowledg in it other nations and countries haue 
tasted better therof, as the ItaHans, French, and 
Spaniardes, for that the Enghsh men haue had but 
httle instruction but that they haue learned of the 
Doutchmen, or Flemings in the time of King Henry 
the eight." 

Waist, Quarter-deck, and Poop of the ^'Revenge." 

(Elizabethan period. ) 

He goes into the subject with great thoroughness and 
points out that allowance must be made for the wind, 
and how to secure good aim. The cannon are to be 
placed so as to be right in the middle of the ports of the 
ship, and care is to be taken that the wheels of the gun- 
carriage are not made too high. He advises that when 
shooting from one ship at another, if there is any sea 

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Sixteenth-Century Three-Masted Ship, 

By a Contemporary Aitist. The date on the stern is 1564. Notice the man in the maintop 

dowsing niaintopsail. 

p. 192 


on it is essential to have a good helmsman " that can 
stirre steadie." The best time to fire at the other vessel 
is when the latter is " alofte on the toppe of the sea," 
for then " you have a bigger marke than when she is 
in the trough." If the ship rolls, " then the best place 
of the ship for to make a shotte is out of the head or 
sterne." The shorter ordnance is to be placed at the side 
of the ship because they are lighter, and if the ship 
should heave "' wyth the bearyng of a Sayle that you 
must shutte the portes," then you can easily take the 
guns in. 

" In lyke manner," he proceeds, "the shorter that the 
peece lyeth oute of the shyppes syde, the lesse it shall 
annoy them in the tacklyng of the Shippes Sayles, for 
if that the piece doe lye verye f arre oute of the Shyppes 
syde, then the Sheetes and Tackes, or the Bolynes 
wyll alwayes bee foule of the Ordnaunce, whereby it 
maye muche annoy them in foule weather." Therefore 
the long guns are best placed so that they are fired from 
the stern. But a gun so placed must be " verye farre 
oute of the porte, or else in the shooting it may blowe 
up the Counter of the Shyppes sterne." 

In another equally delightful volume entitled " In- 
ventions or Devises," the same author tells his reader 
how to " arme " (i.e. protect) a " ship of warre." 
You are to keep your men as close as you may, and 
have the bonnet off the sail or other canvas stretched 
along the waist and decks, as I have shown on an 
earlier page. The forecastle and poop, Bourne says, you 
may "arm" with "manlets or gownes" "to shaddow 
your men " ; so also the tops, " but now in these 
dales," he adds, " the topfight is unto little effect, since 
the use of Call vers or Muskets in Ships," for the latter 
could do so much damage. He therefore advises against 
having many men in the tops. After alluding to the 
netting, which I explained just now, Bourne suggests 

o 193 


that the captain must send the carpenter " into the 
holde of the Ship " "to stop any leake if any chance. 
And also to send downe the Surgion into his Cabin, 
which ought and must be in the holde of the ship." 

The supreme head of the ship was the captain, who 
7 was not necessarily a navigator nor even a seaman ; 
but he was the wielder of authority and discipline. 
He it was who had to keep under control a crew that 
was prone to swearing, blasphemy, violence, mutiny, 
and other sins. Sir William Monson has left behind 
in his most interesting " Naval Tracts " many an 
entertaining detail of sea life during the Elizabethan 
period, and tells that a captain might punish a man 
by putting him in the " billbows during pleasure," 
ducking him at the yard-arm, hauling him from yard- 
arm to yard-arm under the ship's keel (otherwise 
known as keel-hauling), fastening him to the capstan 
and flogging him there, or else fastening him at the 
capstan or mainmast with weights hanging about his 
neck till his poor heart and back were ready to break. 
Another brutal punishment was to " gagg or scrape 
their tongues for blasphemy or swearing." 

Elizabethan captains, says Monson, " were gentlemen 
of worth and means, maintaining their diet at their 
own charge." In a fight the lieutenant had charge of 
the forecastle. It was not till the latter part of Eliza- 
beth's reign that the rank of lieutenant was created for 
the training of young gentlemen destined ultimately 
for command. He came aboard quite " green " in order 
to learn what seamanship he could, and to assist the 
captain in the discipline of the ship ; but he was not 
allowed to interfere with the navigation, which was 
entirely the work of the master. Not unnaturally 
there was a good deal of friction between the lieutenant 
and the master. Even the common seaman had an in- 
eradicable contempt for this landlubber, more especially 


in the seventeenth century during the Anglo-Dutch 

In his "Accidence, or The Path-way to Experience 
necessary for all Young Seamen," written by Captain 
John Smith, the first Governor of Virginia, we have 
a great deal of information which tells us just what 
we should wish to know. Of the captain and master 
we have already spoken. The latter and his mates are 

Riding Bitts on the Gun Deck of the '' Revenge." 
(Elizabethan period.) 

to "commaund all the Saylors, for steering, trimming, 
and say ling the Ship." The pilot takes the ship into 
harbour, the Cape-merchant and purser have charge 
of the cargo, the master-gunner was responsible for all 
the munitions, while the carpenter and his mate looked 
after the nails, pintles, saws, and any caulking of seams as 
well as the splicing of masts and yards. The boatswain 
had charge of the cordage, marlinespikes, and sails, etc., 
while his mate had command of the longboat for laying 



out kedge anchors and warping or mooring. The 
surgeon had to have a certificate from the " Barber- 
surgeons Hall " "of his sufficiency," and his medicine- 
chest must be properly filled. The marshal was to 
punish offenders, and the corporal was to see to the 
setting and relieving of the watch. Every Monday the 
boatswain was to hear the boys box the compass, after 
which they were to have a quarter can of beer and a 
basket of bread. 

The men messed in fours, fives, or sixes, and the 
steward's duty was " to deliuer out the victuall." The 
quartermasters had charge of the stowage, while a 
cooper was carried to look after the casks for wine and 
beer, etc. The large ships had three boats, viz. (1) the 
boat, (2) the cock, and (3) the skiff. These were re- 
spectively put in charge of (1) the boatswain, (2) the 
cockswain, and (3) the skiffswain. Hence the origin 
of these designations. A cook was carried, and he had 
his store of " quarter cans, small Cannes, platters, 
spoones, lanthornes," etc. The swabbers' duties were 
to wash and keep clean the ship. But the first man that 
was found telling a lie every Monday was indicted of the 
offence at the mainmast and placed under the swabber 
to keep the beak-head and chains clean. The sailors 
were the experienced mariners who hoisted the sails, got 
the tacks aboard, hauled the bowlines, and steered the 
ship ; while the younkers were the young men called 
" foremast men," whose duty it was to take in topsails, 
furl and sling the mainsail, and take their trick at the 

In those days the custom of dividing a ship's com- 
pany into watches was already in vogue. " When you 
set sayle and put to sea, the Captaine is to call up the 
company ; and the one halfe is to goe to the Starre- 
boord, the other to the Larboord, as they are chosen : 
the Maister chusing first one, then his Mate another, 


and so forward till they bee diuided in two parts." In 
those days the reckoning by tonnage was far from 
reliable as indicating the true size of a ship. Columbus, 
after his second voyage across the Atlantic, writes to 
Captain Antonio de Torres of the ship Marigalante^ 

Longitudinal Plan of an Early Seventeenth-Century Ship. 

This contemporary .design conveys an excellent idea of the interior of an ocean- 
going vessel. Notice the pilot's place at the stern ; the tiller and 
whip-stafF; the capstan ; the lower deck ; the holds, etc. 


and refers to the freighting of ships by the ton " as 
the Flemish merchants do," and this, he suggests, would 
be a better and less expensive method than any other 
mode. But when after the capture of a prize the 
division of shares was made, it was to the advantage of 



the crew to make the tonnage as big as possible. The 
custom was to allot the share in proportions. The ship 
took a third, the victualler took another third, and the 
remaining third was divided up among the crew. Of 
this latter third the captain received nine shares, the 
master seven, and so on down to the boys who had one 
share, and there was a reward given to the man who 
first descried the sails of the ship ultimately captured. 
A reward was also paid to the first man who rushed 
on board the enemy. 

According to Monson, every man and boy was allowed 
1 lb. of bread a day and a gallon of beer a day, viz. a 
quart in the morning, a quart at dinner, a quart in the 
afternoon, and a quart at supper. On flesh-days each 
man could have 1 lb. of beef or else 1 lb. of " pork with 
pease." Flesh-days were Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, 
and Thursdays. The other days were fish-days, and 
on these every mess of four men was allowed a side of 
salt fish, " either haberdine, ling, or cod," 7 oz. of 
butter, and 14 oz. of cheese. Fridays were excepted, 
for on these days they had but half allowance. Monson 
was naturally prejudiced against the Spanish ships, 
which he accused of being badly kept — " like hog- 
sties and sheep-coats " — and of giving an allowance 
of diet far too small. Every man cooked for himself 
and there was no discipline, although they carried 
more officers than the English ships. In the latter the 
captain inspected his ship twice a day to see that she 
was kept sweet and clean " for avoiding sickness," but 
the holds were so badly ventilated, dark, and smelly, 
the beer was so frequently bad, the food so often 
putrid, and the crew themselves so lacking in habits of 
cleanliness, that scurvy, dysentery, and other diseases 
frequently broke out and men died in large numbers. 
One has only to look through the logs of some of the 
Elizabethan voyages of discovery to see this for oneself. 







































































o C C c t c 


In addition to the officers already mentioned must 
be given two more. These were first the ship's chaplain, 
who celebrated the Holy Communion on Sundays, read 
prayers two or three times on week-days, preached, and 
visited the sick and wounded. And secondly a trum- 
peter, who blew on his silver instrument when the ship 
went into action, at the changing of the watches, and 
at the coming and going of a distinguished guest. His 
place was on the poop, and it was customary for " him- 
self and his noise to have banners of silk of the admiral's 
colours." The watch was set at eight, and so on through 
the night and day. When on these occasions the 
trumpeter sounded his blast he was to " have a can of 
beer allowed for the same." 

And now that we have got some idea in our minds of 
the details of the seaman's life on board an Elizabethan 
ship, let us be rowed off from the shore in one of her 
three boats which is bringing water and wood and 
provisions. The good ship is lying to her anchor in the 
roadstead about to get underway. Transport yourself, 
then, in imagination to that epoch when England's 
seamen made such wonderful history, and endeavour 
to believe that the cock-boat actually bumps up along- 
side the English galleon. You clamber up the ship's 
side and find yourself on her deck, where the crew are 
standing about ready to hear the commands of the 
master. And now let us watch them get under way. I 
shall quote not from fiction of to-day, but from an 
account written by an Elizabethan, this same Captain 
John Smith, as he wrote it for the edification of young 

" Bend your passerado to the mayne-sayle, git the 
sailes to the yeards, about your geare on all hands, 
hoyse your sayles halfe mast high, make ready to set 
sayle, crosse your yeards, bring your Cable to the Cap- 
sterne. Boatswaine, heave a head, men into the tops, 



men upon the yeards. Come, is the anchor a pike ? 
Heave out your topsayles, hawle your sheates. What's 
the Anchor away ? Yea, yea. Let fall your fore sayle. 
Who's at the helme there ? Coyle your cable in small 
slakes. Hawle the cat, a bitter, belay, loufe ( = luff), 
fast your Anchor with your shanke painter, stow the 
boate. Let falle your maine saile, on with your bonnets 
and drablers, steare study before the wind. 

" The wind veares, git your star-boord tacks aboord, 
hawle off your ley sheats ouerhawle the ley bowlin, 
ease your mayne brases, out with your spret-saile, fiat 
the fore sheat, pike up the misen or brade (= brail) it. 
The ship will not wayer, loure the maine top saile, 
veare a fadome of your sheat. A flown sheate, a faire 
winde and a boune voyage ! The wind shrinks. Get 
your tacks close aboord, make ready your loufe howks 
(=luff hooks) and lay f agues, to take off your bonnets 
and drablers, hawle close your maine bowline. 

" It ouervasts. We shall have wind. Sattle your 
top sailes, take in the spret sayle. In with your top- 
sayles. Lower your main sayles, tallow under the 
parrels, in with your maine sayle, lower the fore sayle. 
The sayle is split, brade up close all your sayles, lash 
sure the Ordinances, strike your top masts to the 
cap, make them sure with your sheepes feete. A 
storme, hull,^ lash sure the helme a ley, lye to try 
out drift. 2 How capes the ship ? Cun the ship, spoune 
before the winde. She lusts, she lyes under the Sea. 
Trie her with a crose jacke, bowse it up with the out- 
looker. She will founder in the Sea, runne on shore, 
split or billage on a Rocke, a wracke. Put out a goose- 
winge, or a hullocke of a sayle. 

" Faire weather ! Set your fore sayle. Out with all 
your sailes. Get your Larboard tackes aboord, hawle 

^ i.e. "lie at hull" — the Elizabethan word for "^^ heave to." 
* i.e. lie to a drift-sail or sea-anchor. 



off your Starboord sheats, goe large, laske, ware yawn- 
ing. The ship's at stayes, at backe-stayes. Ouer-set 
the ship, flat about, handle your Sayles, or trim your 
sayles. Let rise your tacks, hawle of your sheats. 

Drake's " Revenge " at Sea. 

Rock-weede, adrift, or flotes ! One to the top to looke 
out for Land. A ship's wake, the water way, the 
weather bow, weather coyle. Lay the ship by the Ley, 
and heave the lead, try the dipsie (= deep-sea) line. 



Bring the ship to rights, fetch the log-hne to try what 
way shee makes. Turne up the minute glasse, observe 
the hight. Land, to make land, how beares it. Set it 
by the Compasse. Cleare your leach-hnes, beare in, 
beare off, or stand off, or sheare off, beare up. 

" Outward bound, homeward bound, shorten your 
Sailes, take in your Sailes, come to an Anchor under 
the Ley of the weather shore, the Ley shore, nealed too, 
looke to your stoppers. Your anchor comes home, the 
ship's a drift, vere out more Cable. Let fall your 
sheat Anchor, land locked, mo(o)re the ship. A good 
Voyage, Armes, arme a skiffe, a frigot, a pinnace, a 
ship, a squadron, a fleete. When you ride amongst 
many ships, pike your yards. 

" To the boat or skiffe belongs oares, a mast, a 
saile, a stay, a halyard, sheats, a boat-hook, thoughts 
(= thwarts), thoules (thole-pins), rudder, irons, bailes, a 
trar-pawling or yawning, carlings, carling-knees, for the 
David (davit), the boates-wayles, a dridge. To row a 
spell, hold-water, trim the boate, vea^ vea^ vea, vea, vea, 
who sales Amen, one and all, for a dram of the 
bottle ? " 

Impressionist-writing you describe all this ? Yes, 
certainly. But it has the effect, has it not, of conveying 
just what we are attempting, a general idea of the life 
of Elizabethan sailors at sea ? " Many supposeth," 
writes this same author, " any thing is good enough to 
serve men at sea, and yet nothing sufficient for them 
a shore, either for their healthes, for their ease, or 
estates, or state." ..." Some it may bee will say I 
would have men rather to feast than fight. But I say 
the want of those necessaries occasions the losse of 
more men than in any English fleet hath bin slaine in 
any fight since (15)88 : for when a man is ill sicke, or 
at the poynt of death, I would know whether a dish of 
buttered Rice, with a little Cinamon and Sugar, a little 


minced meate, or roast beefe, a few stewed Prunes, a 
race of greene-ginger, a flap Jacke, a can of fresh water 
brued with a httle Cinamon, Ginger and Sugar, be not 
better than a Httle poore John, or salt fish, with oyle 
and mustard, or bisket, butter, cheese or oatemeale 
pottage on fish dayes, salt beefe, porke and pease. This 
is your ordinary ship's allowance, and good for them 
are well, if well-conditioned, which is not alwayes, as 
seamen can too well witnesse : and after a storme, 
when poore men are all wet, and some not so much 
a cloth to shift him, shaking with cold, few of those 
but will tell you a little Sacke or Aquvitae is much better 
to keepe them in health, then a little small beere or cold 
water, although it be sweete." 

The sea literature of the Elizabethan period is rich 
in illustrations of the ways employed. Shakespeare, 
whom some critics verily believe to have been a sailor 
— so unfailingly accurate are his numerous sea terms — 
here and there, and especially in " The Tempest," re- 
flects a good deal of the life on board ship. In such logs 
as the voyages of the great Arctic explorer John Davis, 
there is many a nautical expression that cannot fail 
to arrest our attention. And in order to complete the 
impressionistic sketch of Captain John Smith, permit 
me here to bring to the reader's notice some of the 
phrases which I have collected from other sources of 
this period. 

There were various expressions used to mean heaving- 
to : thus "strake suddenly ahull" to signify "suddenly 
hove-to." So also " tried under our maine course, 
sometimes with a haddock of our sail," as Davis has 
it, or " a hullocke of a sayle," as Smith expresses it. 
Perhaps it was thus that the synonym " try-sail " 
originated, signifying a small handkerchief of canvas 
with which to lie comfortably hove-to. " The third 
day being calme, at noone we strooke saile, and let 



fall a cadge anker." " Cadge " is spelt " kedge " nowa- 
days. They used to " let slippe " their cables — made of 
hemp — from the " halse " or hawse-pipe. But some- 
times "the cable of our shut ( = sheet) anker brake." 
"For the straines ( = strands) of one of our cables were 
broken, we only road by an olde junke ! " (Junk is still 
sailor's slang for worn-out rope.) In those days when 
there was no such thing as telegraph or post, when 
ships traversing the ocean were so few as unlikely to 
meet except rarely, months and years went by without 
news of mariners. But sometimes when an outward- 
bound English ship met a fellow-countryman home- 
ward-bound, an effort was made to send letters back. 
There was an instance of this during Davis's third 
voyage when two days out from Dartmouth. They 
met the Red Lion of London sailing home from Spain. 
So they hailed the latter and asked her master to carry 
letters back to London. " And after we had heaved 
them a lead and a line, whereunto wee had made fast 
our letters, before they could get them into the ship, 
they fell into the sea, and so all our labour and theirs 
was also lost." 

Happily there still exists the " Traverse-Booke," 
which Davis made during his third voyage, when he set 
out to discover that north-west passage which was only 
found in the present decade by Captain Roald Amund- 
sen, who also was the first to reach the South Pole. And 
I cannot believe that even a brief extract of Davis's 
sailing will fail to be of the greatest interest to modern 
seamen, whether amateur or professional. I have there- 
fore thought fit to append the following, which covers 
the first nine days beginning from the time when his 
little? fleet of three, consisting of the " barke " Eliza- 
beth, the " barke " Sunne shine, and the " Clincher " 
Helene, weighed their anchors and set sail from Dart- 


A Traverse-Booke made by M. John Davis in his third voyage for the 
discoverie of the North-West passage, Anno I.IST. 













The Discourse. 

May. ." 















This day we departed 
from Dartmouth at 
two of the clocke 
at night. 









This day we descried 
Silly NW by W 
from us. 





NEby E 

This day at noone we 
departed from Silly. 





N E by E 







NWby W 








The true course, dis- 
tance and latitude. 






N W by W 


NEby N 









Noone the 






The true course, dis- 



tance and latitude. 










Wby N 




Wby N 







Now we lay upon the 
lee fortheSunshine, 
which had taken a 
leake of 500 strokes 
in a watch. 

The phrase " lay upon the lee " is just another way 
of saying they hove-to. "A leake of 500 strokes in a 
watch " was identical with saying that they had to 



work the pumps to that number in such a period. It 
should be added, further, that by " elevation of the 
pole " is, of course, meant the ship's latitude. 

Some of the vessels of the sixteenth century were 
terribly slow creatures. There was a nickname given 
to those lethargic coasters which, because they could 
not do much against the current and had to proceed 
from one roadstead to another and there anchor till the 
tide turned, were known as "roaders." No one who has 
made himself familiar with their long and trying voyages 
could ever accuse the Elizabethan seamen of cowardice 
in bad weather. Once, Davis relates, when his ship was 
fighting her way through a storm, her mainsail blew 
right out of her ; whereupon the master of the ship 
crept along the mainyard, which had now been lowered 
down to the rails, and gathering the sail as it was hauled 
out of the sea, gallantly fought with it and succeeded 
in bending it again to the yard, " being in the meane 
while oft-times ducked over head and cares into the 


The reader will remember just now in the extract from 
Smith the expression " she lusts " for " she lists." 
Among hundreds of our English seamen in this twentieth 
century " lust " is still used to mean " list." Smith, 
as we saw, also wrote " spoune before the wind." Davis, 
too, related that " we spooned before the sea," the 
exact meaning being that they drove before the gale 
under bare poles. The latter also uses the expression 
" a mighty fret of weather " to mean " a mighty 
squall." Those who are familiar with the language of 
the fishermen on the north-east coast of England will 
call to mind their word " sea-fret " to denote a fog 
approaching the land. 

Few nautical words are so well known to us as 
" skipper." Before the sixteenth century was ended 
the Dutch seamen had fraternised a good deal with 


























1— 1 












) -i 










































the sailors of England. The Low Countries were fast 
becoming great shipbuilders and navigators, and not 
unnaturally some of their phrases began to be used by 
our men. The Dutch word to this day which is used 
to mean captain is still " schipper," and among the 
English seamen at the end of the sixteenth century 
the equivalent " shipper " was employed to refer to 
the same personage. There were other slang phrases 
prevalent, such as a " light-horseman " to mean a 
fast-pulling gig. So also Davis speaks of a "trade" 
wind to mean regular and steady. " The wind blowing 
a trade," he remarks. But some of these phrases em- 
ployed by seamen of those days are a little less obvious. 
" Tressle-trees," for example, might puzzle many a 
modern sailorman. " This night we perished our 
maine tressle-trees, so that wee could no more use our 
maine top-saile." These trestle-trees were just a 
couple of strong pieces of wood, or of iron, and were 
fitted one on either side of the lower masthead so as 
to support the heel of the topmast. Such expressions 
as " ground-tackle " are as frequently employed to-day 
as then, but over and over again we find that a ship 
" came roome," " bare roome with her," to mean that 
the former came to leeward, put up her helm and bore 

Anxious as he naturally was concerning a thousand 
matters, the life of the captain at sea was many degrees 
happier than that of his crew. At least he had a 
decent cabin and bed in which to sleep and take his 
meals and sip his punch, otherwise known as " Rosa 
Solis," consisting of brandy, spices, and hot water. 
But the seamen's comforts were disgracefully neglected, 
with the result that they died in dozens. Some more 
humane captains such as John Smith did their best 
for the men ; but this was exceptional. And yet it 
was a thoroughly unsanitary age. Davis himself ad- 



mits that many of his crew were " eaten with Hce " as 
big as beans. Monson includes among the causes of 
the discouraging of seamen the inexperienced com- 
manders who were put over them, the bad victuals 
which they had to endure, the dishonesty in serv- 
ing them — the beef, for instance, given so that five 
men had to partake of four men's allowance — and 
the delay which was made in paying their wages. 
Especially were these abuses noticeable during the 
early years of the seventeenth century. Men were 
impressed into the service even in those days, though 
there were volunteers as well. At the time of the 
Armada our sailors received as wages fourpence a day, 
but this was paid quarterly. In addition, of course, there 
was sometimes prize money in the proportions already 
mentioned. In Monson's time complaint was made of 
the kind of foremast men who were pressed into the 
service " to pleasure friends." Such men as " taylors, 
porters, and others of that rank, unworthy of the 
hatches to lie on," were brought aboard and given no 
less than £l lis. a month. And yet, when opportunity 
allowed, the captain used to send his crew ashore in 
the ship's boats " to walk in the fields ... to take 
the air." But among the officers there was too much 
" excessive banqueting on board " and a great waste 
of powder, as, for instance, when guns were fired at 
the drinking of a man's health. 

And the same authority has something very in- 
teresting to tell us concerning the ceremonial wearing 
of the flag on board ship. I have no intention of con- 
fusing our chronological sequence, but I must ask the 
reader for a moment to recall that incident which was 
one of the indirect if not the real causes of the first 
Anglo-Dutch wars. It will be remembered — which 
English schoolboy does not remember it well ? — that 
when Captain Young, one May Day in 1652, was bound 


down Channel and met a convoy of Dutchmen coming 
up, he was angered to find the foreigner decHned to salute, 
and an engagement immediately followed. Now, writing 
long before that incident had ever occurred, Monson 
definitely states that if a foreign fleet should pass on 
our seas and meet our admiral's ship, the former were 
expected to acknowledge our sovereignty by coming 
under the lee of the admiral, by striking their topsails 
and taking in their flag. " And this hath never been 
questioned," he adds, except out of ignorance, as in the 
case of Philip II, when he met the Lord Admiral of 
England when the former was sailing to England in 
order to marry Queen Mary. The custom was that if 
any foreign ship were to arrive in one of our ports or 
to pass a fort or castle, she must, as she entered, 
and before coming to anchor, take in her flag three 
times " and advance it again." But should the English 
admiral be in the harbour, the foreigner was not to dis- 
play his flag at all. 

Prior to the reign of James I, all admirals wore the 
St. George's flag at the topmast head. But when the 
Union of Scotland had been effected there was added 
the cross of St. Andrew. An admiral at anchor took 
in his flag in the evening and fired a gun and set the 
watch. " The flag carried under the poop of a ship," he 
remarks, " shews a disgrace," and is never used except 
when it is won or taken from an enemy. 

Jealousy of Spain and greed of gold had as much to do 
with the impetus given to English seamanship and navi- 
gation during Elizabethan times as any inherent love of 
the sea. To meet this new zeal various writers, some of 
whom we have already mentioned, set to work to write 
treatises that would turn raw agricultural labourers 
and tavern-haunters into fighting sailors and navi- 
gators. William Bourne, from whom we have already 
quoted, in his " Regiment for the Sea " was the first to 

p 209 


give a book on navigation written by an Englishman. 
This was in the year 1573, and a rare example of this 
little work is still preserved in the British Museum. In it 
he pointed out the various ways for finding the varia- 
tion of the compass, exposed the errors of the plane 
charts, and advised mariners in sailing towards high 
latitudes to keep their reckoning by the globe, as in 
those regions the plane chart was most likely to land 
them into trouble. 

In 1594 John Davis, the Arctic explorer, published 
his " The Seaman's Secrets." This book became very 
popular, and took the place of the Spanish Martin 
Cortes' handbook, which had been used in the English 
translation. There is a vast amount of matter in 
Davis' " Secrets " which is worth perusing even by 
the modern navigator. He speaks of " great Circle 
navigation," and gives a whole host of valuable practi- 
cal hints. " The Instruments necessarie for a skilfull 
seaman," he explains, " are a Sea Compasse, a Cross 
staffe, a Quadrant, an Astrolabe, a Chart, an instrument 
magneticalP for the finding of the variation of the 
Compasse, an Horizontall plaine Sphere, a Globe, and 
a paradoxall Compasse "^ . . . " but the Sea Com- 
passe, Chart and Crosse staffe are instruments sufficient 
for the seaman's use, the astrolabie and quadrant 
being . . . very uncertaine." In this book he gives 
instruction as to tides, stars, and how to use the astro- 
labe. And it is worth noting that he speaks of the 
English Channel after the fashion of our Gallic neigh- 
bours, who still refer to "La manche." " Our Chan- 
nell," he explains, " commonly called the Sleue " (sleeve). 

Everyone knows that longitude is the distance east or 

^ i.e. an azimuth compass. 

* Tills is thought to have been some instrument showing how the line of the 
course cuts the several meridians^ those meridians being drawn upon their proper 



west of a given meridian. In those days Greenwich did 
not enter into the matter : the observatory there had 
still to be founded. When Davis wrote in the year 
1594 there was no variation at St. Michael's in the 
Azores, and so the longitude was reckoned from there. 
" Longitude," he defines, " is that portion of the 
Equator contained betweene the Meridian of S. Michel's, 
one of the Assores, and the Meridian of the place whose 
longitude is desired : the reason why the accompt of 
longitude doth begin at this He is, because that there 
the compasse hath no variety." 

Be it remembered, also, that it was Davis who im- 
proved the cross-staff and superseded the clumsy 
astrolabe for taking meridian altitudes at sea. It was 
commonly spoken of as Davis's quadrant, and was 
afterwards improved by Flamstead with the addition 
of a glass lens. Subsequently it was further improved 
by Halley, and as such was used almost exclusively till 
the year 1731, when it was in turn superseded by 
Halley's quadrant. When we read again the entrancing 
narratives given in Hakluyt and elsewhere of the 
Elizabethan voyages into the unknown, let us note 
that reposing somewhere in the high poop of these 
ships there were most probably all the following instru- 
ments for navigating the trackless seas. There was a 
calendar, an astrolabe, a cross-staff, a celestial globe, 
a terrestrial globe, a universal horloge for knowing the 
hour of the day in every latitude, a nocturne labe 
for telling the hour of the night, one or more com- 
passes, a navigation chart, a general map, and a printed 

It was in 1599 that Edward Wright published his 
" Haven-finding Art." In his volume " Certaine 
Errors in Navigation," he complains of the errors in 
the proportions of the existing charts. These consisted 
in wrongly showing the distances of places. He speaks 







































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£ 5: 

c c c c c c 


also of sailing " by a great Circle, which is to bee drawne 
by those two places," and asserts that this is a better 
method than sailing always at right angles to the 
meridian. In practically all the charts of this age the 
surface was ruled with rhumb-lines from the thirty-two 
points of the compass, as is still the case to-day on 
certain Dutch charts. The origin of the word " rhumb " 
was Portuguese, and doubtless these lines appeared on 
the earliest Portuguese charts. In the first of these 
two books, Wright also furnished a table of variations 
of the compass in different parts of the world. 

As to the practical side of navigation, Bourne ex- 
horted his mariners to remember that the earth is a 
globe and not a " platforme," as " generally the most 
parte of the seamen make their account." The meri- 
dians, he reminded them, grow narrower towards the 
two poles. If one had occasion to voyage northward it 
were better to sail by the globe, he suggested. Therefore 
you should keep a perfect account of the ship's course. 
Then resort to your globe and consider what place and 
parallel you are in (by means of the sun at day and the 
stars at night). Knowing where you are, set your globe 
to the elevation of your pole, and then turn to the place 
of your zenith and seek the opposite of it in your 
parallel, for then you know that in the same parallel 
is your east and west line. Then the just quarter of 
that circle to the pole must be divided into the eight 
points of your compass, doing so likewise on the other 

From the southern voyages the " plats or cardes for 
the sea " were recommended. Bourne strongly ad- 
vised against painting their compasses with so many 
colours on these charts and so many flags on the land, 
but bade them use the vacant places left on the paper for 
better objects, such as the time of high water at certain 
states of the moon, and the elevation of the land, in 



order that the appearance of the latter might not be 
mistaken. The use of sea cardes for navigating during 
long voyages he regards as very necessary for three 
reasons : they show you (1) how one place bears 
from another ; (2) the distances between the places ; 
(8) in what latitude any place is. But the master 
or pilot of the ship is also to bear in mind the 
effect of tides, currents, the surging of the sea or 
scantiness of the wind, which might put the ship to lee- 
ward of her course. Also in long voyages the wind 
might shift ahead, so the mariner must keep a perfect 
account of his courses and mark each new course on 
the chart, and pay regard to the " swiftnesse " or 
" slownesse " of the ships. If the weather be clear he 
was to take the true altitude of the pole, which will 
correct the ship's course and give "a very neare gesse" 
how the port of destination bears and how far. 

The compass was variously known in the Elizabethan 
age as the " sea-directorie," the " nauticall box," and the 
" sea-compasse." Lightbody describes the bittacles as 
" little wooden pins for nailing the compass-box withal." 
The first atlas was published in Dutch at Leyden in 
1585 by Wagenaer. In this are to be found excel- 
lent coloured charts of the Narrow Seas. It is evident 
from these that there was a system of buoyage even 
in those days. There are barrel buoys, for instance, 
and basket beacons such as you can still find in use 
to-day in different parts of Holland. The sands on the 
port hand of the Swin Middle at the entrance to the 
Thames Estuary are shown marked by staff-and- 
triangle marks. This excellent atlas was soon trans- 
lated into English, so that the elaborate sailing direc- 
tions and the admirable little contours of the coast — 
crude but useful — could be placed at the service of 


English mariners. This English version was known 
as Wagenaer 's " Mariner's Mirrour," and there was 

' ^, ' ' J 5 

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also " The Sea Mirrour," translated from the Dutch of 
William Johnson Blaeu by Richard Hynmers in 1625, 
which was another of the numerous nautical books of 


A Geometricall Square a Longitude uppon Plaine." 

This is from Lucar's sixteenth-century treatise on gunnery, and ilhistrates 
the use of the "geometricall square" for finding the distance between the 
galley and the ship, viz. 300 yards. This instrument was made of metal or 
cypress, the quadrant being divided into 90 degrees. It was used for 
measuring " altitudes, latitudes and profundities," and so very valuable for all 

gunnery work. 

this time, containing instruction in practical navigation, 
sailing directions, charts, and contours. 

The hourly or half-hourly glasses used on board were 
turned by the sentry, who struck the ship's bell at every 
half -hour just as on shipboard to-day. The only means 



of keeping correct time in those days was by observing 
the heavenly bodies, and this gave time at ship. But 
frequently the navigators were many miles out in their 
longitude, since the latter is found by comparing the 
exact time at ship with the time by a chronometer 
showing the time at the prime meridian. 

Nicholas Tartaglia, in his " Three Bookes of Col- 
loquies concerning the Arte of Shooting," published 
in the year of the Armada, gives an interesting 
illustration to indicate how one could know by the 
help of a gunner's circle the number of miles or 
feet any ship lying in the roadstead was distant ; 
and also how to measure height with a geometrical 
square. And Bourne, in his " Treasure for Traueilers " 
(1578), had a method for ascertaining the " waight of 
any shyp swimmyng on the water." The reader will 
remember that when we were discussing Columbus 
we pointed out the lack of that useful instrument, 
the log and line, for indicating the distance which 
a vessel sailed. It was William Bourne who first 
published an idea for overcoming this difficulty in a 
somewhat ingenious manner. In his " Inventions and 
Devices " (1578), he gives a method whereby " to know 
the way or going of a ship, for to knowe how fast or 
softly that any ship goeth." . The idea is too compli- 
cated to be given here in detail, but practically it 
amounted to towing astern a tiny boat containing a 
paddle-wheel which revolved, and so by a species of 
clockwork registered the speed. Excepting that the 
patent log of to-day is helicular, there is much re- 
semblance between the old and the new in at least the 
bare idea. But a little later — in the year 1637 — Richard 
Norwood published, in his " Seaman's Practice," a 
whole chapter on the subject " Of dividing the Log-line 
and reckoning the Ship's way." The log-line was to 
be used in conjunction with the glass, and this method 

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was little altered until the nineteenth-century inven- 
tion of the patent log had to be brought about owing 
to the great speed of steamships. 

Before we conclude this chapter we must not omit 
to say something of the improvement in naval strategy, 
tactics, and discipline during the Elizabethan period. 
You will remember that important campaign of 1587, 
when Drake took an expedition out to Cadiz, sunk and 
burnt an enormous quantity of the enemy's tonnage, 
repulsed the attacks of the Mediterranean galleys — 
completely beating this type of craft at her own special 
game and in her own waters — captured large quantities 
of supplies intended for the Armada, and demonstrated 
himself to be no man of medieval conceptions, but a 
modern strategist by waiting at Cape St. Vincent, 
where he held the real key to the situation — able to 
prevent the fleets from Cartagena and Cadiz from 
reaching Lisbon. You will remember, too, that after 
terrorising the Spaniards and their galleys he set a 
course for the Azores, captured the mammoth Sa7i 
Felipe, homeward bound from the East Indies with a 
cargo that, reckoned in. the money value of to-day, was 
worth over £1,000,000 ; and what was more, discovered 
from the ship's papers the long-kept secrets of the East 
Indian trade. Finally, during that same historic voyage, 
when friction broke out between the modern strategist 
Drake and his medieval-minded vice-admiral William 
Borough, the latter was promptly court-martialled, 
tried on board the flagship by Drake, Fenner, and the 
other captains, and deposed from his command. 

Now, what was the net result of all this ? We may 
sum the matter up in the following statement. It gave 
the death-blow to the medieval methods of fighting and 
inaugurated the scientific idea of strategy. It demon- 
strated the fact that even in those circumstances when 
the big sailing ship was at her worst, viz. fighting in 



sheltered waters and in a flat calm, when the galley was 
certamly at her very best, yet the former could annihi- 
late the latter. Contrariwise, the capture of the San 
Felipe showed that even the biggest ship afloat could 
be made a prisoner if only the captor went about the 
matter in the right way. And, finally, it inaugurated 
real naval discipline, even for the highest placed officer, 
and instituted the Court Martial. 

And yet during the time of Elizabeth, though her 
admirals realised the value of strategy, yet they failed 
to understand fleet tactics. There was no regular order 
of battle. Howard's fleet against the Ai^mada in 1588 
had been in action twice before it was organised into 
proper squadrons. During that nine days' fighting the 
old idea of boarding, that had continued from the Greek 
and Roman days, through Viking and medieval times 
till the sixteenth century, was clearly giving way to 
the practice of broadside gunnery. But what is im- 
portant to note is the fact that though the Elizabethan 
admirals were realising the superiority of the gun to 
the boarding pike, yet they had not become sufficiently 
logical to devise a battle order for enabling their 
guns to be used to the best advantage. Nevertheless, 
there was a partial appreciation of this important 
principle. The idea of fighting in line-ahead was 
certainly in their minds, and there was a tendency for 
the fleet to break up into groups, each group delivering 
its broadsides in succession on an exposed part of the 
enemy's formation. A contemporary chart depicting 
the Armada and the English fleet at the different stages 
of fighting in the English Channel unquestionably 
shows the Queen's ships standing out in line-ahead 
formation from Plymouth Sound, getting the weather 
gage of the enemy, and then firing into them from the 
windward side. Spanish evidence admits that the 
English were " in very fine order." And it is quite 

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curious to observe that though Spain and Portugal had 
led the way towards scientific seamanship and naviga- 
tion, and England had followed, yet the Spaniards still 
looked upon gunnery as a dishonourable practice, still 
retained the medieval idea that gentlemen would fight 
only with swords ; and therefore these South Europeans, 
unable to fight at a distance, used their best endeavours 
to close with our ships and carry on the contest after 
the manner of the tactics which Greek and Roman and 
Viking and Crusader had adopted. 

It is true, also, that the Portuguese showed no little 
courage and enterprise in their shipbuilding. Some of 
their fifteenth - century caracks were four-deckers, of 
fifteen hundred and two thousand tons, with forty 
guns and a thousand sailors, soldiers, and passengers. 
And, even if they were not by disposition and natural 
endowment great sailors, yet they were splendid navi- 
gators. But they were never great shipbuilders in the 
scientific sense, since they built by rule of thumb. The 
Portuguese had, indeed, done much for cartography, 
and yet until the Dutch Gerard Mercator introduced 
his " Mappemonde " in 1569, containing a new method of 
projecting a sphere upon a plane, the problem of how 
to sail in a straight line over a curved figure still lacked 
solution. The Dutch Wagenaer, of whom we spoke 
just now, historically certainly owed a great deal to 
the achievements of the Portuguese and Spanish, but 
already by the year 1577 he had wi'itten on naviga- 
tion. His charts of Dutch harbours and of the Narrow 
Seas were, for their limited purpose, of more value 
than any charts which had come from the South of 

It has been well said by a careful writer that British 
seamanship has been historically the cause of British 
supremacy, and that most British sea fights have been 
decided by bringing single ships to close action, laying 



ship against ship. If this statement is true, it is es- 
pecially applicable to the Elizabethan period, when 
seamanship was our strong point and tactics our 
weakest. Never before had English sailors reached 
such a high degree of proficiency therein ; never in so 
short a time had it done so much to mould national 
history, and to lay the foundations of an Empire. 




[HE only danger attaching to a fine 
achievement is lest the next may 
appear insignificant by its side. 
The dramatist who has created 
a splendid climax has little to 
fear except that his effect may 
be utterly spoiled by some anti- 
climax. Transfer the simile to the 
region of wars, and how often all 
through history do you not notice 
that part of the grandeur has 
been robbed by the number of 
ex-fighting men who, no longer needed for the safety 
of their country, find themselves at a loose end ? 
There has scarcely been one recorded war that has not 
shown the soldier and sailor almost happier in fighting 
than in surviving. 

So it was, then, that after all those years of fighting 
on sea, after all those expeditions towards the West 
Indies and Spain, after the Armada fights and lesser 
campaigns had at last brought settled peace to our land, 
there was no employment for those numerous crews 
which had fought with such zest and daring. And so 
they turned their minds to something else, according 
to their circumstances. " Those that were rich rested 
with that they had ; those that were poore and had 



nothing but from hand to mouth, turned Pirats ; some 
because they became sleighted of those for whom they 
had got much wealth ; some for that they could not 
get their due ; some that had lived bravely would 
not abase themselves to poverty ; some vainly, only 
to get a name ; others for revenge, covetousness, or as 
ill ; and as they found themselves more and more op- 
pressed, their passions increasing with discontent, 
made them turne Pirats." 

So wrote Captain John Smith in his " Tra veils and 
Observations." " The men have been long unpaid and 
need relief," wrote Hawkyns to Walsyngham on the 
last day of July, after they had succeeded in driving 
the Spanish Armada out of the English Channel, and 
his own gallant crew had fought like true sailormen. 
" I pray your Lordship that the money that should 
have gone to Plymouth may now be sent to Dover." 
" The infection is grown very great in many ships," 
wrote Howard, three weeks later to Elizabeth, " and 
is now very dangerous ; and those that come in fresh 
are soonest infected ; they sicken one day and die the 
next." And so we can easily understand that after all 
these privations and disappointments the ill-treated 
bands of seamen drifted into piracy as the most profit- 
able life and profession. 

Even during Elizabeth's time there were, of course, 
plenty of these rovers in the English Channel, the 
most notorious of whom was a man named Callis, who 
cruised about off the Welsh coast. For companions he 
had a man named Clinton and one whose surname was 
Pursser. These gained great notoriety until the Queen 
had them caught and hanged at Wapping. And there 
was a man named Flemming, who was as big a rascal 
and as much " wanted " as the others ; but inasmuch 
as he performed a fine deed for his country and was 
a patriot more than a pirate, he received not only his 

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pardon, but a good reward as well. For he was roving 
about in the Channel when he discovered the great 
Spanish Armada sailing up. Then, heedless of the fact 
that his own country was anxious to see him dead, he 
sailed of his own accord into Plymouth, hastened to 
the admiral, and warned him of the momentous sight 
which his own eyes had beheld. 

Afterwards there still remained some few pirates, so 
that it was " incredible how many great and rich 
prizes the little barques of the West Country daily 
brought home." But now, after peace had come and 
the men who had fought the Spaniards were not needed, 
they betook themselves to help the Moorish pirates of 
Tunis, Algiers, and the north coast of Africa, and many 
became their captains. There they were joined also 
by the scum of France and Holland, but very few 
Spaniards or Italians came with them. Some were 
captured off the Irish coast and hanged at Wapping : 
others were pardoned by James I. They wandered 
in their craft north and east ; to the English Channel, 
Irish Sea, and the Mediterranean, causing panic every- 
where ; and this notwithstanding that they had against 
them warships sent out by the Pope, the Florentines, 
Genoese, Maltese, Dutch, and English. There were 
seldom more than half a dozen of these piratical craft 
together, and yet they would invade a seaside town, 
carry off property and persons, attack ships and con- 
fiscate their freights with the greatest impudence. But 
after a while factions grew, and " so riotous, quarrellous, 
treacherous, blasphemous, and villainous " a com- 
munity became " so disjoynted, disordered, debawched, 
and miserable, that the Turks and Moores beganne to 
command them as slaves, and force them to instruct 
them in their best skill." It was after these pirates had 
committed frightful atrocities as far north as Baltimore, 
carried away men, women, and children into slavery 



and been a terrible menace to shipping, that James I's 
navy performed the only active service of his reign 
when it was sent in 1620 to the Mediterranean. How- 
ever, though it contained six royal ships and a dozen 
merchantmen and was away from October to the 
following June, yet it did little good as a punitive ex- 
pedition. It was not until 1655 that Blake settled the 
Tunisian pirates, set fire to all the nine ships of the enemy, 
and came out of the harbour again with but small loss. 
And though even in this twentieth century the north 
coast of Africa still possesses a few pirate ships which 
have been known to attack a sailing yacht when be- 
calmed, yet ever since Admiral Lord Exmouth, in 
August, 1816, with a small fleet of British and Dutch 
warships, exterminated the pirates at Algiers, silenced 
their five hundred guns, captured the Dey of Algiers, 
and released twelve hundred Christians, this relic of 
medieval piracy has been practically non-existent in 
European waters. 

If the sixteenth century forms the climax of English 
seamanship, it is the seventeenth century which 
unfortunately is the anti-climax. Abuses crept into 
the Navy, so that by the year 1618 a complete re- 
organisation had to be undertaken, and the bribery, 
embezzlement, and general corruption had to be stopped 
so far as was possible. And yet, for all that, there was 
still being made important progress both in navigation 
and in shipbuilding. John Napier, in the year 1614, 
provided his tables of logarithms, which simplified 
the intricate calculations of navigators. In 1678 was 
published " The Complete Ship- Wright," by Edmund 
Bushnell, which I believe to be the earhest treatise on 
shipbuilding printed in EngHsh. The way the London 
shipwrights were wont to measure their ships was as 
follows : They multiplied the length of the keel " into 
the breadth of the ship, at the broadest place, taken 


from outside to outside, and the produce of that by the 
half breadth. This second product of the multiphcation 
they divide by 94 or sometimes by 100, and according 
to that division, 60 the quotient thereof, they are paid 
for so many Tuns." 

For example, take the case of a ship 60 feet long and 
20 feet broad : — 



100)12000(120 Ans. 120 tons. 

But, says this same writer, the true way to measure 
must be by measuring the body and bulk of the ship 
underwater. He also gives some of the rule of thumb 
standards to which they worked. For instance, the 
mainmast of small ships was three times as long as the 
breadth of the ship. Thus the ship just mentioned 
with a beam of 20 feet would have a mainmast 60 feet 
high. The topmast, in like manner, was two-thirds 
the length of the lower mast in all cases. The main- 
yard was two-thirds of the mainmast plus one-twelfth 
of the mainmast. 

There is an illustration in " The Mariner's Jewel," 
by James Lightbody, published in London in the 
year 1695, that shows the method which was employed 
in launching a ship at that time. It is demonstrated 
that the vessel was allowed to rest her weight on a 
cradle and then hauled into the water by means of 
a crab winch. As there was a paucity of dry docks 
in those days it was usual, when any painting of, or 
repairs to, the bottom of a ship had to be carried out, 
to careen the ship. She was hove down on one side 

Q 225 


by a strong purchase attached to her masts, the latter 
having been properly supported for the occasion to 
prevent their breaking under so great a strain. This 
was in vogue until about the be^'inning of the nine- 
teenth century, when the custom of sheathing ships 
with copper, and thereby keeping a clean bottom for 
several years, superseded careening. 

There is many an item in Lightbody's work which 
is worth our notice. He tells us that can buoys were 
employed in those days " for shewing of danger," and 
stuns'ls were already in use on board ship. They still 
used the word " davids " for " davits," and employed 
a drabler to lace below the bonnet of the squaresails. 
" Drift-sail " was the name still given to a species of 
sea-anchor, which was used for riding by in heavy 
weather. The " sail " was veered right ahead by 
sheets, he says, to keep her head right upon the sea. 
Old hawsers were made up into fend-offs. The heavy 
guns were hauled out by means of a guy from the fore- 
mast to the capstan. A ship's bottom was graved with 
a mixture of tallow, soap, and brimstone, which pre- 
served her caulking and made her fast. There was a 
rope called a horse which was made fast to the fore- 
mast shrouds and spritsail sheets to keep the latter 
clear of the anchor-flukes, for in those days, as one can 
see from old prints, the anchor was stowed at the side 
of the ship close to the foremast shrouds. 

Monson's " Naval Tracts " are full of information 
regarding the seaman's life at the beginning of the 
seventeenth century. He tells us that there were ship- 
yards in his time at Chatham, Deptford, Woolwich, and 
Portsmouth ; and that every time a ship returned from 
sea the Surveyor's duty was " to view and examine 
what defects happen'd in the hull or masts." The 
Grand Pilot was " chosen for his long experience as a 
pilot on a coast, especially to carry the King's great 

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ships through the King's channel, from Chatham to 
the narrow seas : as also for his knowledge to pass 
through the channel called the Black Deeps." As to 
the life on shipboard, " first and above all things you 
are to take care that all the officers and company of 
ships do offer their best devotion unto God twice a day, 
according to the usual practice and liturgy of the 
Church of England." During a fight, if a ship chanced 
to receive damage near her bilge the leak was to be 
stopped with salt hides, sheet lead, plugs, " or what- 
soever may be fit." To guard against the worm eating 
into the wood, one way was to sheathe the hull with an 
outer plank and then burn the upper plank " till it 
come to be like a very coal in every place, and after 
to pitch it." Ships of 400 tons were built of 4-inch 
planking ; ships of 300 tons had 3-inch ; small ships 
had 2-inch, " but no less." 

The system of signalling in vogue during the first 
half of the seventeenth century was of three kinds. 
By day topsails were lowered and raised. By night 
lights were shown : while the shooting of ordnance was 
used both by night and day. At night, too, an admiral 
showed two lights on his poop, the vice-admaral and 
rear-admiral being some distance astern, and each with 
one light on the poop. Every morning and evening 
the vice- and rear-admirals manoeuvred their ships so 
as to speak with the admiral and take their instruc- 
tions, weather permitting, and then fell back into line 
again. If an admiral went about on the other tack at 
night, he fired a cannon and showed two lights, one 
above the other, and the rest of the fleet were to make 
answer. If he was forced to bear round, the admiral 
showed three lights on his poop, and the other ships 
replied with the same. If he shortened sail in the night 
for foul weather, he showed three lights on the poop 
one above the other. If in foul weather the ships of 



the fleet lost company and afterwards came in sight of 
each other, then "if in topsail gale, you shall strike 
your foretopsail twice ; but if it be not topsail gale, 
you shall brail up your foresail and let it fall twice." 
There were no fog-horns in use at this time on ships, 
but in thick weather they made a noise with a drum, 
trumpet, or would ring a bell and sometimes shoot off a 
musket. One man was kept continually on watch at 
the topmast head. 

A gunner had to provide himself at sea with powder, 
shot, fire-pikes, cartridges, case-shot, crossbar-shot, 
etc., and a horn for powder, priming iron, linstocks, 
gunner's quadrant, and a dark lantern. The types of 
guns now in use consisted — reckoning from the largest 
to the smallest — of the cannon royal, cannon, cannon 
serpentine, bastard cannon, demi-cannon, cannon petro, 
culverin, basilisk, demi-culverin, bastard culverin, saker, 
minion, falcon, falconet, serpentine, and rabanet. The 
cannon royal had a bore of 8j inches, shot a 66-lb. shot 
a distance of 800 paces ; whilst the rabanet had a 
1-inch bore, shot a 1-lb. shot 120 paces. 

A capital ship of the time of James I carried two guns 
in the gun-room astern and two in the upper gun-room, 
which was " commonly used for a store-room, lodgings, 
and other employments for a general or captain's use, 
and his followers." Above these two gun-rooms was 
the captain's cabin, with the open galleries astern and 
on the sides. Fowlers and the smaller guns were thrust 
out from here. 

The author of " The Light of Navigation," published 
in 1612, remarks that among other things the " sea- 
faring man or pilot " ought to know how to reckon 
tides, " that he may knowe everie where what Moone 
maketh an high water in that place, that when he 
would enter into any Haven or place, where he can 
not get in at lowe water, then he may stay till it be 


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half flood." He ought to know also the direction of the 
tide, and complains that some " upon pride and un- 
wilHngnes, because they would keepe the art and 
knowledge to themselves," " will not suffer the common 
saylers to see their work." 

In the seventeenth century the lieutenant was still not ^ 
necessarily a seaman. He was a well-bred gentleman, 
knowing how to entertain ambassadors, gentlemen, 
and distinguished visitors received on board. He was 
capable of being sent as a responsible messenger to 
important personages, and was, in short, of far more use 
as a social instrument than as a naval officer. During 
the Commonwealth soldiers again became sea-com- 
manders, and the names of Blake, Monck, and Popham 
will instantly leap to the mind. Up till the time of 
Charles II the sea service had not always enjoyed the 
dignity of being deemed a profession worthy of gentle- 
men. There were, of course, exceptions ; but as a 
general rule this was the case. But, thanks to the ex- 
ample of the Duke of York, afterwards James II, the 
Navy during the time of his brother Charles II became 
fashionable — too fashionable, in fact ; for numbers of 
gentlemen got themselves promoted to the rank of 
ship's captain while knowing very little indeed about 
ships and their ways. One has only to read through 
some of Mr. Pepys' remarks to appreciate this unfortu- 
nate condition of affairs. 

The reign of James II gave a still greater impetus to 
the English naval service. There was an improvement 
in administration and organisation generally, thanks 
partly to the personal inclination of James towards 
maritime matters, and partly to the lessons which 
he and others had learned during the Anglo-Dutch sea 
fights. But as to placing naval education on a sound 
basis, there was no such thing in England till the end of 
the Stuart period, although across the Channel the French 



were seeing to it that their sailors obtained not only 
a thoroughly practical, but also an adequate theoretical 
training. The English midshipman came aboard for his 
first cruise a complete landsman with no training. He 
managed to learn the rudiments of seamanship from the 
boatswain, and to get a smattering of elementary navi- 
gation ; yet it was anything but a satisfactory training. 
There was little enough science in the sailor's work, and 
hundreds of ships were wrecked through lack of proper 
instruments, until, in the year 1676, the founding of 
Greenwich Observatory enabled nautical astronomy to 
be developed to the great advantage of ships and men. 
Thanks to the English overseas colonies and the New- 
castle colliers, to which Boteler refers in his famous 
" Dialogues," published in 1685 ; to the numbers of 
other coasters; and last, but most important of all, to 
the long protracted Dutch wars which had taught many 
a greenhorn how to use the sea, there was a large and 
growing body of seamen, many of whose descendants 
were to fight under Rodney, Hawke, Jervis, Nelson, 
and other famous admirals at a later date. 

At the end of the seventeenth century, captains in 
the Navy were being paid £l 10s. a month during the 
time of peace, but during war this was raised to £3. 
The idea of a naval uniform originated in France in the 
year 1669, but the practice of all grades of naval 
officers wearing uniform did not become general until 
the time of the first Empire. During the reign of our 
Charles II, ships of the English Navy carried as officers, 
captains, lieutenants, masters, pursers, surgeons, and 
chaplains. The seventeenth-century French Navy owed 
a very considerable debt to the far-sighted enterprise 
of Colbert, but directly it owed a very great deal to 
the labours of its chaplains, who instructed the pilots 
in their work and taught naval aspirants the mysteries 
of astronomy and navigation. During the first part 

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of the seventeenth century the finest shipbuilders had 
been the Dutch, for, thanks to their East Indian and 
other colonies, Holland had every reason for building 
big ocean-going ships. No one in Spain, England, or 
France could for a time build ships like theirs. And so 
it was but natural that the zealous French went to 
Holland, lived there for some time in order to learn 
shipbuilding, translated the best Dutch authorities on 
this subject into French, and returned home to build on 
even more scientific lines. Therefore in the eighteenth 
century the French could build vessels as no one else 
in the world. It was from the latter, in turn, that the 
English at last acquired so much skill that the old 
rule-of-thumb methods of ship construction were for 
ever banished and the era of scientific shipbuilding 
entered upon. In such scientific matters as the im- 
provement of gunnery, the log, the stability and better 
under-water design of ships, France led the way for 
those vast reforms which were subsequently to follow. 
In the whole history of shipbuilding there is no name 
which stands out so prominently as Pett. From the 
time of Henry VIII right down till that of William and 
Mary, one or more members of this family were busy 
building ships for the State. At the beginning of the 
seventeenth century the finest and largest ship which 
had ever been in the British Navy was the Prince Royal, 
of 1200 tons. She was designed and built by Sir 
Phineas Pett, and her keel was laid down in 1608, and 
the first attempt to launch her was made on the 24th 
of September in 1610. Among the Harleian manu- 
scripts in the British Museum is a quaint volume of 
a hundred and thirteen pages, entitled " The Life of 
Phineas Pette, who was borne Nov. l^t, 1570," and the 
account continues down to the year 1638. It is a curious 
record, in which the most intimate domestic matters are 
mixed up with the most interesting facts concerning the 



building of ships. For example : " In the beginning of 
August, I was summoned to Chatham with my fellow 
master shipwrites there to take a survey of the Navy 
according to the yearly Custom. . . . The 6th. of this 
Month of Aug*, my wife was delivered of her 5th. son 
at Woolwich." 

However, this MS. attracts our attention, because it 
gives us a most interesting and detailed account of the 
way ships in England were launched only twenty-two 
years after the Armada was fought and vanquished. 
There is, I believe, in existence no such satisfactory 
a picture of the time-honoured ceremony of sending 
a ship for the first time into the water that is to be her 
abiding support. I will, therefore, ask the reader to 
be so good as to accompany me down to Woolwich a 
few days before the end of September in that year 
1610. Here, at last, after two years' worry, work, and 
anxiety, Pett has finished his master-work, the biggest 
craft which even a Pett had ever fashioned. Even to- 
day, as then, the shipbuilder feels never so much 
anxiety as the day on which the launching of a great 
ship is to take place. A hitch — a difficulty in per- 
suading the ship and water to become acquainted — may 
spoil the labour of many a month, besides being a source 
of great depression to all concerned, from the builder 
downwards and upwards. 

However, here we are arrived at the Woolwich yard, 
where the great Prince Royal is seen towering high 
above other craft, and the last touches are being given 
alike to the ship and to the arrangements, for Royalty 
are coming to grace the launching ceremony. There 
was a great " standing sett up," Pett informs us, " in 
the most convenient place in the yard for his Majesty, 
the Queen and the Royal Children, and places fitted 
for the Ladies and Council all railed in and boarded." 
All the rooms in Pett's own lodgings had been " very 

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handsomely hanged and furnished." " Nothing was 
omitted that could be imagined anyways necessary both 
for ease and entertainment." Pett had been round the 
dockyard on Sunday, September 23, and then in the 
evening came a messenger to him with a letter ordering 
him to be very careful and have the hold of the Prince 
Royal searched lest " some persons disaffected might 
have board some holes privilly an' the ship to sink her 
after she should be launched." Pett, however, was 
far too wide-awake not to have foreseen any such 

On Monday morning, then, he and his brother and 
some of his assistants had the dock-gates opened. 
Everything was got ready for the approach of high tide 
and the time when the Prince Royal was to be floated. 
But matters were not going to be quite satisfactory. 
It was, of course, a spring tide, but unfortunately it 
was blowing very hard from the south-west, and this 
kept back the Thames flood so that the water failed 
to come up to its expected mark, and the tide was no 
better than at neaps. This was a great disappointment, 
for presently arrived the King and his retinue. Pett 
and the Lord Admiral and the chief naval officers re- 
ceived James as His Majesty landed from his barge, 
but it was with a heavy heart. The King was conducted 
to Mr. Lydiard's house, where he dined. The drums and 
trumpets were placed on the poop and forecastle of the 
Prince Royal, and the wind instruments assigned their 
proper place beside them. But still the tide was behind- 

So Pett thought out a device. About the time of high 
water he had a great lighter made fast at the stern of 
the Prince Royal so as to help to float the latter. But 
it was of no avail, for the strong wind "overblew the 
tide, yett the shipp started, but yet the Dock gates 
pent her in so streight that she stuck fast between them 



by reason the ship was nothing Hfted with the tide as we 
expected she should, and ye great Hghter by unadvised 
counsel being cut of(f), the sterne of the ship settled so 
hard upon the ground that there was no possibility 
of launching that tide." Furthermore, so many people 
had gone aboard the ship that one could hardly turn 
round. It was a terrible contretemps that the ship 
remained unyielding, for here were the distinguished 
visitors on board waiting. " The noble Prince himself 
accompany with ye Lord Admirall and other great 
Lords were upon the poope where the standing great 
guilt Cupp was ready filled with wine to name ye shipp 
so soon as she had been on floate according to ancient 
Custome and ceremoneys performed at such time by 
drinking part of the wine, giving the ship her name 
and heaving the standing cup overboard." 

But time and tide wait on no man, prince or ship- 
builder. It was no use to expect a launch that day. 
" The King's Maj"^" Pett adds sorrowfully, " was 
much grieved to be frustrate of his expectation comeing 
on purpose tho very ill at ease to have done me honour, 
but God saw it not so good for me, and therefore sent 
this Cross upon me both to humble me and make 
me to know that however we purposed He would dis- 
pose all things as He pleased." Thus, at five that after- 
noon, the King and Queen departed. When the last 
guest had gone, Pett, pathetic but plucky, set to work 
with his assistants " to make way with the sides of the 
gates," and, plenty of help being at hand, got every- 
thing ready before the next flood came up. The Lord 
Admiral had sat up all night in a chair in one of the 
rooms adjoining the yard till the tide " was come about 
the ship." It was a little past full moon— when the 
tides, of course, are at their highest — and the weather 
was most unpropitious. It rained, it thundered and 
it lightened for half an hour, during which Prince 


Henry returned to the yard and went aboard the Prince 
Royal together with the Lord Admiral and Pett. It 
was now about 2 a.m., or an hour before high water. 
Another attempt was made to launch the great ship, 
and happily this time she sped into the water without 
any difficulty or the straining of screws or tackles. As 
she floated clear into the channel, the Prince drank 
from the cup and solemnly named the ship the Prince 
Royal. Thus, at length, this glorious ship that was to 
be so much admired presently with her fine carvings and 
decorations, with her elaborate figurehead at the bows 
representing her namesake on horseback, kissed the 
waters of the Thames. Soon, fitted with three lanterns 
at the poop and her yards and masts, her fifty-five 
guns and her spread of canvas, she would go forth to 
the open sea, the proudest ship flying the British 
ensign. But though this ship contained many of the 
improvements which had been made recently in the 
art of shipbuilding, yet there had been a scandalous 
excess of expense, for the Commissioners discovered 
that more than double the loads of timber had been 
used than had been estimated for. 

It is undeniable that the Stuart seamanship was in- 
ferior to that of the Elizabethans. They could not handle 
their vessels with such dexterity as the contemporaries 
of Drake. The sailors who had not become pirates 
were not the equals of those who had fought against 
the Spaniards ; and this for two reasons : firstly, the 
fisheries had become so bad as to discourage putting 
to sea ; and, secondly, the voyages of discovery were 
now far fewer. As already stated, one of the happy 
results of the Anglo-Dutch wars was that they gave 
experience to inexperienced men. Often enough, too, 
as in the fleet that was sent in 1625 to Cadiz, the ships 
were leaky, cranky, and fitted with defective gear and 
the scantiest supply of victuals. Add to these draw- 



backs the incapacity of the officers and the diseases 
of the men, and you may rightly pity the lot of the 
sailor in those times. They were even put ashore at 
Cadiz fasting, so that they promptly filled their poor 
bellies with the wine of the country and became drunk. 
Can you wonder, therefore, that during the Civil War, 
after there had been a series of mutinies during the reign 
of Charles I, the whole of the Navy, with the exception 
of one ship, deserted the royal cause as a protest against 
the bad food, the irregular pay, and the incapable 
officers ? After that the victuals were improved, their 
wages were paid at a fair scale and with punctuality, 
and their affairs better regulated. But not even then 
were matters entirely satisfactory. As one reads 
through the correspondence of this period one can see 
that discipline was woefully lacking. Even Blake, keen 
disciplinarian that he was, found it necessary to write 
on the 1st of December, 1652, to the Admiralty Com- 
missioners to the following effect soon after the en- 
counter with the Dutch fleet off Dungeness : "I am 
bound to let your Honours know in general that there 
was much baseness of spirit, not among the merchant- 
men only, but many of the State's ships, and therefore 
I make it my humble request that your Honours would 
be pleased to send down some gentlemen to take an 
impartial and strict examination of the deportment of 
several commanders, that you may know who are to 
be confined and who are not." Captain Thomas Thorow- 
good — is not the surname suggestive of the Puritan 
period ? — also wrote to complain that his crew had 
actually refused to accept their six months' pay as 
being inadequate. " On Saturday night they were 
singing and roaring, and I sent my servant to bid the 
boatswain to be quiet and go to their cabins ; but they 
told me they would not be under my command, so I 
struck one of them, and the rest put out the candle 

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and took hold of me as though they would have torn 
me to pieces, so that I am almost beside myself, not 
knowing what to do." 

When Blake wrote to Cromwell in August, 1655, from 
on board the George^ he complained of various matters. 
When he had wished to blaze away at the Spanish fleet 
there was a little wind " and a great sea," so that he 
could not make use of the lower tier of guns. This arose 
from the old mistake of having the gun-ports too near 
the water's edge. Furthermore, " some of the ships 
had not beverage for above four days, and the whole 
not able to make above eight, and that a short allow- 
ance ; and no small part both of our beverage and 
water was stinking." ..." Our ships are extreme 
foul, winter drawing on, our victuals expiring, all stores 
failing, and our men falling sick through the badness 
of drink and through eating their victuals boiled in salt 
water for two months' space. Even now the coming 
of the supply is uncertain (we received not one word 
from the Commissioners of the Admiralty and Navy 
by the last) ; and, though it come timely, yet if beer 
come not with it, we shall be undone that way." Again 
he writes from the George, " at sea, off Lagos," in 1657 : 
" The Swiftsure, in which I was, is so foul and unwieldy 
through the defects of her sheathing laid on for the 
voyage of Jamaica, that I thought it needful to remove 
into the George.''^ 

The importance of the Anglo-Dutch wars consists, 
inter alia, in the display of tactics that must now be 
mentioned, for this, if you please, represents the period 
of transition. We dealt some time back with the lack 
of tactics of the Elizabethan period, and saw that at 
least there was in existence a yearning after the line- 
ahead formation. The object of this is, of course, to 
enable each ship to fire into the enemy her very utmost, 
and give her opponent the benefit of a broadside. But 



it was not till the seventeenth century that this theory 
got a real foothold. Between 1648 and 1652 certain 
fighting instructions were issued for the English Navy, 
and may be summed up as follows : The fleet was not 
to engage the enemy if the latter should seem more 
numerous. On sighting the enemy, the vice-admiral 
and rear-admiral respectively were to form wings with 
their ships, to come up on either side of the admiral 
and to keep close to him. When the admiral gave 
the signal, each ship was to engage the hostile ship 
nearest to him, the admiral tackling the admiral of 
the enemy. Care must be taken not to leave any of 
their own ships in distress, and commanders of all small 
craft were to keep to windward of the fleet and to look 
out for fire-ships. 

There was no instruction enjoining line-ahead as a 
battle formation, but it was understood, and when 
Blake had his first encounter with Marten Tromp the 
English ships formed into single-line ahead. So much 
for the moment with regard to tactics. What was the 
strategy displayed at the commencement of the Anglo- 
Dutch wars ? Consider a moment what would most 
probably be that strategy employed by the British 
Navy to-day at the beginning of hostilities between 
ourselves and Germany. We should assuredly do three 
things : (1) We should close up the Straits of Dover 
and intercept German liners homeward bound. (2) 
That being so, the only possible chance of the enemy's 
ships reaching their Fatherland would be to go round 
the north of Scotland : so we should have a squadron 
off the north-east coast of Scotland to thwart that in- 
tention. (3) And, lastly, we should send some of our 
warships across the North Sea to blockade German 

Now except for a comparatively slight coast erosion 
and the shifting of minor shoals, Great Britain in the 


twentieth century is geographically the same as in the 
seventeenth. Instead of a German enemy, imagine 
that Holland is the foe ; instead of the German liners, 
substitute the Dutch Plate ships ; instead of the 
modern steel steam warriors, substitute sail-propelled 
warships. Otherwise you have exactly similar con- 
ditions. The strategy is the same : only the century 
and the type of ships are different. For what hap- 
pened ? Ayscue with his squadron remained in the 
Downs to catch the Dutch Plate ships bound home to 
Holland. Blake was sent with sixty or seventy ships 
to the north-east of Scotland and captured a hundred 
of the Dutch fishing fleet, and then proceeded further 
north to intercept the Dutch merchantmen between 
the Orkneys and Shetlands. He then came in contact 
with the Dutch fleet and prepared for war, but a gale 
sprang up and dispersed Tromp's ships. It was only 
the lack of good charts that made the English sea 
general reluctant to cross the North Sea into the shoal- 
strewn Dutch waters, though in fact they did cross 
later and blockade. Thus we may say that at any 
rate by the beginning of the first of these Anglo-Dutch 
wars there is the surest evidence that naval strategy 
was appreciated at its full value, and that it was modern 
and not medieval strategy. 

And now let us pass to the year 1653, after the 
English fleet had come in from the English Channel to 
Stokes Bay for a refit. Important new orders were 
now issued which insisted that ships were to endeavour 
to keep in line with their chief so as to engage the enemy 
to the best advantage. When the windward line had 
been engaged, the English ships were to form in line- 
ahead " upon severest punishment." Now please note 
two points : that this line-ahead tactic was not of 
foreign but English origin, and that following this order 
a general improvement in tactics followed. The second 



Dutch war showed the progress which had been made 
since the new type of Fighting Instructions had been 
issued. Earl Sandwich, the Lord High Admiral, had 
issued orders just a month before war was declared, 
to provide for the formation of line-abreast, and for 
forming from that order a line-ahead to port and star- 
board. The principle, too, of sailing close-hauled in 
single-line ahead is conspicuous after the Common- 
wealth period. During the first year of the third Dutch 
war still further progress was observed by the officers 
being instructed as to how they should keep the enemy 
to leeward and how to divide the enemy's fleet if the 
latter were to windward ; and the regulations once more 
insisted on the commanders maintaining their line- 
ahead and avoiding firing over their own ships. Two 
distinct schools of tactics arose : one purely formal, the 
other allowing room for personal initiative as occasion 
suggested. In the end the former won, and this con- 
tinued till the end of the eighteenth century. 

There is among the seventeenth-century MSS. in 
the British Museum still to be found a great deal of 
interesting data which well illustrates the experiences 
of ships and men in these times. Notwithstanding 
the incompetency of some of the captains who owed 
their position less to their ability as seamen than to 
influence, yet there were others who had been at sea 
most of their lives and had had command of merchant 
ships for years. Such men as these were of the highest 
value to their country during the Anglo-Dutch wars. 
You will remember that battle off Portland in 1653, 
during the first Dutch war. Richard Gibson, who 
was purser on board the Assurance at the time, has 
left behind his reminiscences of this fight. In the 
beginning of February the English fleet was sailing from 
Dover down Channel with a fair easterlv breeze. 
" Gen^"! Blake and Deane in the Tryumph, S^ John 
240 ' 

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Lawson Vice Adm^i of the Redd in the Fairfax, Cap*° 
Houlding Rear Admii of y® Redd in the Ruby, Gen^ii 
Monck Admii of the White in y^ Vanguard, S^ W"^ Penn 
Adm^i of the Blew in the Speaker (now named the 
Mary), and the Whole Fleet about 52 Saile spread their 
Colours of Redd White and Blew, and their Flaggs 
Ensignes and Pendants (as now) according to their 
Division of Squadrons, and Sayled to meet the Dutch 
Fleet. . . . Upon our first Sight of the Dutch all the 
English had their Starbord tacks aboard ; Gen''ii 
Blake Espying the Dutch Fleet to bare down before 
the Winde upon him got his Shipp ready, haled his 
Main Sayle up the Brailes, and braced his foretopsaile 
to the Mast. . . . The Dutch Fleet in a Boddy bore 
downe upon the Generalls, and pressed upon the 
Tryumph with as many Shipps as could well lay about 
her. Upon which S'^ W"^ Penn Tacked and his Division 
with their larboard Tacks (as soon as they could) stood 
thorow the Dutch fleet one way : as S'^ Jo'i Lawson 
(with his division) did the other. . . . Upon which 
such of the English Friggotts as Sailed well Stered out 
of Gunn Shot of the Dutch Fleet to Windward on the 
larbord side, untill they had got a head of severall 
Dutch Shipps of Warr : then set their Starbord Tacks 
and stand right with them, and boarded the first Dutch 
Shipp they could." 

It seems strange to us in these modern days, when 
excellent and reliable charts can be had for a few 
shillings, to read in the official dispatch signed by 
Monck and Blake to Cromwell that they supposed they 
would have destroyed the Dutch fleet off the Lowland 
coast, " but that it grew dark, and being off of Ostend 
among the sandes, we durst not be to bold, especially 
with the greate ships ; soe that it was thought fitt we 
should anchor all night, which we accordingly did about 
10 of the clock." The way these ships manoeuvred 

R 241 


in battle so as to get to windward of their enemy was 
as pretty a sight as a fleet of racing yachts to-day 
manoeuvring for the same ambition at the starting- 
hne. At the battle of Lowestoft in June, 1665, at 
sunrise, the Dutch fleet " bore up to V(ice) A(dmiral) 
Minnes, and gave him a broadside, who received them 
accordingly, and so," says a Harleian MS. of that date, 
" their whole Fleet passed by ours, firing at every 
Ship as they went, and receiving returnes from them, 
not one of either side being out of play at their first 
encounter : immediately upon which his R(oyal) H(igh- 
ness) made his Signe of the Tacking, that we might still 
keep the wind of them, which was as happily executed, 
notwithstanding that the Ennemy also strove for it." 
Yet again we have proof of the importance which the 
English Navy attached to falling into line of battle. 
The occasion was the four days' battle off the North 
Foreland in June, 1666. When de Ruyter's fleet had 
been sighted to leeward, our " General calld immediately 
a Council of Flag officers : which being done, ye signe 
was put out to fall into ye ligne of batle . . . about 
1 of ye clock ye fight began. Sir G. Askue with ye white 
squadron leading ye van." In the official report of 
the battle of Solebay (May, 1672), Captain Haddock, 
in command of Lord Sandwich's flagship the Royal 
James, shows that orders during battle were sent by 
means of the ship's boats. " I had sent our Barge by 
my Lord's command ahead to Sir Joseph Jordaine 
to tack, and with his division to weather the Dutch 
that were upon us, and beat down to Leeward of us, 
and come to our Assistance. Our Pinnace I sent like- 
wise astern (both Coxswains living) to command our 
ships to come to our Assistance, which never returned." 
And there are other instances of falling into line, as, for 
instance, at the battle on the 11th of August, 1673. 
" His H(ighnes)s Pr. Rupert seeing us come with that 


faire wind," says the Stowe MS., " gave us the Signall 
to beare into his wake." And again in the evidence 
of the Dutch Rear-Admiral Schey at the court-martial 
on Torrington after the battle of Beachy Head : 
" On the 10* 51, being Munday morning, y^ Admirall 
Torrington made a signe for y^ ranging ourselves in a 
line, and our fieete being got into a line, y^ signe for 
engaging by a bloody flag from y® Admirall's foretop- 
mast head being putt up." 

We spoke just now of the absence of good charts. 
It was Charles II who, being himself greatly interested 
in navigation and finding that there were no sea charts 
of the British Isles except such as were Dutch or copies 
of the Dutch — and very erroneous at that — gave a man 
named Greenville Collins command of a yacht for the 
purpose of making a sea survey, " in which service," 
says Collins, " I spent seven years' time." James II, 
himself a great admiral, encouraged this work till its 
completion, and so good and accurate were the charts 
that they were in active use at any rate till the end of 
the eighteenth century. As to the lighting of the coast, 
this was still in a very primitive condition. The first 
navigation light in this country was that of the Roman 
Pharos at Dover, a day-mark which mariners still see to- 
day as they come bound up Channel. In monastic times 
probably St. Aldhelm's (better known as St. Albans) 
Head showed a light to warn ships from the land, and it 
is also thought that there was a light at Flamborough^ 
and in Flintshire. In 1685, Lowestoft, Dungeness, the 
North and South Forelands, Orfordness, Flamborough, 
Portland, Harwich, and the Isle of Man were all lighted 
by beacon fires of wood and coal. These coal fires 
continued in some of the lighthouses round our coast 
even till well into the reign of William IV. But the 

^ The derivation of the word i7ame-borough or Flamborough at once sug- 
gests a burning beacon. 



Argand lamp, which was invented during the reign of 
James II, gradually and surely took the place of the 
older-fashioned beacon. And if we may, whilst we are 
on the subject, anticipate a few years, we may add that 
though in William IV's time lights were more numerous 
and the system of buoys was well established, yet 
lightships were practically non-existent. The first 
lightship dates from 1732, when Robert Hamblyn and 
David Avery established such a ship at the Nore. 

We may pass now to consider the conditions which 
regulated the work of Stuart seamen on board one of 
the ships such as fought against the Dutch. We have 
to think of a type of warship that was nothing else 
than a slightly developed specimen of the Elizabethan 
period. The difference between the Tudor and Stuart 
ships at their fullest development is merely that the 
latter had become much bigger and carried additional 
sails and guns and crew. As a broad statement, this 
sums the matter up in the fewest words. Had you 
passed one of the biggest of the Stuart ships at sea you 
would have seen a three- and sometimes a four-masted 
craft with topsails and t 'gallants above her courses. 
On such a ship as the Sovereign of the Seas, if we are 
to judge by a perfectly authentic engraving, royals 
were also set sometimes. On the mizzen you would 
have observed the lateen sail still in existence. What 
especially would have struck you would have been not 
merely the elongated beak, but the very long bowsprit. 
The sailors had to creep out along this spar, keeping 
themselves, by hanging on to a stay or spreader, from 
slipping into the ocean every time the vessel rose or 
fell to the motion of the waves. It was a pretty wet 
job to lay out along there in a breeze of wind when the 
beak-head was dipping well down into the sea every 
time she pitched and hurling a veritable cascade over 
them. There was one squaresail bent to a yard under- 

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< s 



neath the bowsprit, and this water-sail had a couple of 
round holes — one at either side low down near the foot 
— the object being to permit the water, which this low 
sail scooped up, to escape. The sheets of this sail led 
aft and came on board abaft the fore shrouds. In fine 
weather a bonnet was sometimes laced to this sprit- 
sail. But in these Stuart ships there was also a square 
spritsail hoisted on a sprit -topmast. To hoist this sail 
the men had, of course, to go right out to the extreme 
forward end of the bowsprit. Above this topmast flew 
the Union Jack. 

Had you gone aboard such a vessel you would have 
found she had three decks and a forecastle, a quarter- 
deck, and a " round-house." The lowest tier had 
thirty square-ports for demi-cannon and cannon. There 
were thirty ports also on the middle tier for demi- 
culverin and culverin. But her upper tier had twenty- 
six ports for lighter ordnance. Her forecastle and her 
half-deck had twelve and fourteen ports respectively, 
and there were thirteen or fourteen more ports " within 
board for murdering pieces," as well as a good many 
holes for firing muskets out of the cabins. Right for- 
ward and right aft respectively she carried ten pieces 
of chase-ordnance. 

As you paced her spacious decks you would have 
realised that you were on board some better finished 
article than belonged to Elizabethan days. The work- 
manship and decoration would have struck you as of a 
higher class. From her great ensign flying over the 
poop to the smaller Union Jack on the sprit-topmast ; 
from her royal standard, flying at the main, to her keel, 
she would have appeared a massive, substantial creature 
of wood and able to withstand a good deal of battering 
even from the Dutch ordnance. You would have noted, 
too, the many carved emblems pertaining to land and 
sea which decorated her — the angelic figures holding 



up devices, the cupids, and " symbols of navigation," 
all done in gold and black. You would have wondered 
at the elaborate figurehead representing a royal 
personage on horseback prancing over the waves. And 
finally, when you came round to the stern, you would 
have remarked the elaborate allegorical picture of 
Victory, or some other suitable subject, and the five 
great poop-lanterns — one of them so big that " ten 
people could stand upright in it " — crowning the whole 
thing. Seventy-five feet, you would have been told, as 
you looked over the side, she measured from the keel 
to her lanterns. 

The poop-deck ended some distance abaft the mizzen- 
mast : the quarter-deck came just as far forward as the 
mainmast. Below the quarter-deck was the upper 
deck, which ran the whole length of the ship. Next 
below came the main deck, where the heaviest guns were 
kept. The forecastle was really a substantial fortress 
which rose from the upper deck, and, by the aid of its 
guns already mentioned, could look after itself even 
when the enemy had boarded the ship and obtained 
possession of the rest of the decks. Sometimes a light 
topgallant forecastle was erected above the forecastle. 
Additional to the guns already mentioned, swivels 
were also mounted on quarter-deck and poop, and 
would be very useful in case one of the enemy's ships 
came alongside for boarding. The cable of such a ship 
would be about a hundred fathoms long of 21 -inch 
hemp, her anchors being respectively of 430 lbs., 150 
lbs., and 74 lbs. weight. Davis' quadrant or back- 
staff was still used, and the log-line was an appreciable 

Below you might have found the dull red everywhere 
a monotonous colour. But there was a reason : it 
prevented the human blood spilt in an engagement 
from being too conspicuous. So also the gun-carriage 

J3-J.33 5 

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was painted the same hue. All the ports were square 
except on the upper and quarter-decks, where the 


Employed at sea for finding the hour of the night by 
the North Star. 

ports were circular, and surrounded with gilt wreaths. 
Externally the upper works of the hull above the line of 
the upper decks were painted dark blue with gilt decor- 



ations. Below this the ship was painted yellow down 
to the lower deck ports, with a broad band of black 
along the water-line. Her bottom was painted white, 
with the anti-fouling composition. Various experi- 
ments were tried for sheathing the ships with lead, but 
eventually a fixed method was adopted for about a 
century, which consisted of hammering numerous broad- 
headed nails close together along the ship's bottom, 
and then paying thereon a composition of tallow and 

The nocturnal was still used for finding the hour of 
the night by the North Star, and the moon-dial for 
finding the time of high water. Spherical and plane 
trigonometry, the use of charts and globes, the applica- 
tion of Gunter's scale and Briggs' logarithms, the use 
of Mercator's chart — these were the subjects which a 
seventeenth-century navigator was expected to learn 
if he were a genuine " tarpaulin," and not an ignorant, 
swaggering land-lubber promoted by influence only. 























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THE lot of the modern seaman is of 
a vastly different order of things 
from that of the eighteenth-cen- 
tury sailor. Hardships though 
there maybe in this twentieth cen- 
tury, yet they are not to be men- 
tioned when we remember the 
hard-swearing, bullying days of 
Queen Anne. Morals, both ashore 
and afloat, were at a particularly 
low ebb ; irreligion and blasphemy 
were rampant. On board ship 
there was very rarely Divine worship, even on the 
large East Indiamen, although this neglect was cer- 
tainly contrary to orders. But the managers them- 
selves, in order to save the expense of having to carry 
a chaplain, used to rate their big ships as of only 499 
tons, and so keep themselves within the law. 

One of the most interesting personalities of this 
period was William Hutchinson, who for some time 
was a famous privateer. As an instance of the kind of 
tyrannical captains of his day, he mentions one whom 
he remembered in the Jamaica trade. The latter used 
to make his ship a veritable floating hell for all con- 
cerned. He was an excessive drinker, he was a notorious 
gambler, always seeking a quarrel, and much addicted 
to heavy swearing. He never got the best out of his 



people, for the reason that when he was not mal- 
treating his men he was damning his officers. If 
during a heavy squall the officer of the watch offered 
to take in sail or to bear away, this virulent skipper 
would regard such a suggestion as an act of piracy. 
And yet he himself was so heedless of what was prudent, 
that he would sometimes run his ship before the wind 
and carry on till she was overpressed and could not be 
controlled by the helm. And there came a time when 
this skipper and his ship put forth to sea and never 
came back at all. 

Hutchinson wrote one of the most interesting books 
on seamanship which it has ever been my pleasure to 
read. His complaint was that too many men were so 
devoted to the methods which they had been accus- 
tomed to, that they could not be prevailed upon to try 
others which were better. There certainly was a good 
deal of ignorance about in this eighteenth century. 
Some men, he says, endeavour to make ships perform 
impossibilities, as, for instance, backing their craft 
astern to clear a single anchor when the wind is right 
aft against the windward tide ; or trying to back a ship 
with sails so set as to prevent her shooting ahead 
towards a danger when laid-to ; or driving broadside 
with the wind against tide, not knowing that a ship 
driving on either tack will always shoot forward the 
way her head lies, in spite of any sail set aback. He 
complained, too, of the neglect of sea officers' educa- 
tion. One may add that the only training which naval 
officers received at this time was by going to sea. They 
came from the shore to the quarter-deck and picked up 
what knowledge they could. It is true that, in 1727, 
George II established a Naval Academy at Portsmouth. 
But it was a very exclusive institution, and open to 
only a few of the sons of the nobility and gentry. 
Therefore it languished through neglect before very 

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long, but in 1806 was raised to the dignity of a Royal 
Naval College. 

The eighteenth-century midshipman of the Royal 
Navy was a man of low social standing. His age varied 
from ten to forty-five, the older men having been pro- 
moted from before the mast. Mere boys, who knew 
but little about the ways of a ship, and in any case 
had had but little training, were given the rank of 
lieutenant. The country had so much fighting on 
hand that it badly needed men. Forty thousand men 
were voted in 1705, justices of the peace being authorised 
to seek out seamen and deliver them to the press- 
gangs. Whilst penalties were threatening for those 
who concealed seamen, rewards were held out to those 
who should discover and help to arrest them. Lands- 
men being eligible, it was not surprising that a raw, 
incompetent lot of gaol-birds had to do service for 
their country on the seas. But they were not even 
healthy of body. One has only to read Anson's " Voyage 
Round the World." Among the men that were sent 
to him by the authorities, thirty-two out of one batch of 
170 were straight from the hospital and sick-quarters. Of 
the soldiery he was to carry, all the land forces that 
were to be allowed him were 500 Chelsea pensioners, 
consisting of men invalided for age, wounds, or other 

But there were some very fine fellows in two branches 
of the merchant service. Hutchinson calls attention to 
these : " Those seamen in the coal and coasting trade 
to the city of London, are the most perfect in working 
and managing their ships in narrow, intricate, and 
difficult channels, and in tide ways ; and the seamen 
in the East India trade are so in the open seas." " The 
best lessons for tacking and working to windward in 
little room," he remarks elsewhere, " are in the colliers 
bound to London, where many great ships are con- 



stantly employed, and where wages are paid by the 
voyage, so that interest makes them dexterous." The 
mainmast of such craft stood further aft than was 
customary. Therefore they had a strong tendency to 
gripe, and so they often used their spritsail and all 
head sail for going to windward and making them 
manageable. In narrow channels, when the wind was 
blowing so strongly that all hands could not haul aft the 
fore sheet, this had to be done by the capstan. These 
little brigs had no lifts to the lower yards, no foretop 
bowlines, but short main bowlines, and snatch-blocks 
for the main and fore sheets. The main braces led 
forward so that the main and maintop bowlines were 
hauled and belayed to the same pin. " We have ships," 
he says, " that will sail from six to nine miles an hour, 
upon a wind, when it blows fresh and the water is 
smooth, and will make their way good within six points 
of the wind, in still water, a third of what they run by 
the logg." 

The accompanying illustration shows the well-known 
manoeuvre of boxhauling, which Hutchinson was most 
anxious to teach his brother seamen. For the benefit 
of the non-nautical reader, I may explain that this is a 
method of veering a ship when the sea is so bad that 
she cannot tack, and is dangerously near the lee shore. 
Boxhauling, insisted Hutchinson, is the surest and 
best method of getting a ship under command of helm 
and sails in a limited space. " There is a saying amongst 
seamen," he adds, " if a ship will not stay you must 
ware her ; and if she will not ware, you must box-haul 
her ; and if you cannot box-haul her, you must club- 
haul her — that is, let go the anchor to get her about on 
the other tacks." Every maritime officer to-day has 
written across his mind in imperishable letters the five 
L's — " log, lead, look-out, latitude, and longitude." In 
Hutchinson's day the sailor had only three of these, 

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and he quotes the great Halley as emphasising the im- 
portance of the three L's — lead, latitude, and look-out. 
For the difficulty of the longitude was still unsolved. 

Briefly, the history of this problem is as follows. 
Longitude is, of course, the distance which a ship makes 
east or west. These eighteenth-century navigators had 
their quadrant for finding their latitude, and they used 
the log-line, log-ship, reel, and half-minute glass to tell 
them roughly and inaccurately the distance sailed by 
the ship. These, by the way, were kept stowed in the 

Eighteenth-Century '' Bittacle." 

There was a compass on either side, and the lamp was 
placed in between. 

" bittacle " (binnacle), which in those days was a 
wooden box arrangement containing a compass on 
each side with lights in between. There were usually 
two of these " bittacles " on board, viz. one for the 
steersman and one for the " person who superintends 
and directs the steerage," says Moore, " whose office 
is called conning." The accompanying illustration will 
indicate quite clearly the appearance of an eighteenth- 
century " bittacle." Throughout history all sorts of 
efforts had been made to do for longitude what the 
quadrant and cross-staff had done for latitude. The 
great voyages of discovery in the early sixteenth century 



had especially given this research an impetus. In 1530 
and again in 1598 a means had been sought. Philip III 
of Spain offered a thousand crowns to him who should 
discover the instrument for finding longitude. All 
sorts of prizes were offered by different Governments at 
different dates. The States of Holland held out an 
offer of 10,000 florins. The melancholy wreck of Sir 
Cloudesley Shovel on the Scillies with his squadron 
caused the English Parliament, in 1714, to offer £20,000 
for any method which could determine the longitude. 
Two years later the French Government offered 
100,000 livres, and so the impetus continued without 
avail. The whole civilised world was crying out for 
something which no scientist could give. 

And then, in 1765, the English prize was at last won 
by John and William Harrison, who were able to make 
instruments most suitable for this purpose, and received 
the £20,000. This was that invaluable little article^ 
the chronometer, which means so much to the modern" 
mammoth steamships. Dr. Maskelyne, the Astronomer 
Royal, had, in 1754, discovered the method of finding 
longitude by lunar observations on shore. After 
navigators at last began to employ chronometers the 
dawn of modern methods had already occurred. In 
1767 came the first publication of the " Nautical 
Almanac," Hadley's quadrant was made known in 
1731, and the sextant in 1761. Perhaps, as the sailing 
masters in the Navy had to provide their own nautical 
instruments, there was not such an incentive to ac- 
custom themselves to new methods as might otherwise 
have been the case. 

Till the time when Hadley's quadrant was adopted, 
masters had always stuck to Davis'. The ship's time 
was still kept by half -hour glass. The quartermaster, 
when the sand had run down, capsized the glass again 
and struck the ship's bell — on eight occasions during the 

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Quarter-deck of an Eighteenth-Century^Frigate. 
Showing the steering wheels in use. 


watch. All the different courses sailed during a watch 
of four hours were marked by the quartermaster on a 
circular disc of hard wood. This was called a traverse 
board, and thereon were marked the different points of 
the compass. On the line of each point radiating from 
the centre were eight little holes, just as one sees in a 
cribbage-board. One at a time, pegs were placed into 
these holes to register the various courses sailed in 
every watch. And then, later on, the courses were 
entered on a log-book or slate, and the course and 
distance made good reckoned out. 

I have not been able to find any authority which 
would settle the date when wheels for steering a ship 
were first invented ; but I am convinced that it was 
somewhere about the middle of the eighteenth century. 
Hutchinson, whose "Practical Seamanship" was pub- 
lished in 1777, speaks of the steering wheel in the 
following terms : " The great advantages experienced 
from steering a ship with this excellent machine has 
occasioned it to become xnore and more in use ; even 
small ships that have their tillers upon deck frequently 
now steer with a wheel." And he states that most of 
these wheels have eight spokes, though large ships have 
a ten-spoked wheel. 

The Newcastle colliers, of which we were speaking 
just now, had anything but good charts to guide them, 
and their methods of coasting are certainly worth 
noting. About two-thirds of their voyage from New- 
castle-on-Tyne to the Pool of London will be found to 
have consisted of navigating in the region of dangerous 
shoals. And yet in that eighteenth century, even 
though they had not a really reliable chart between 
them, hundreds of these little brigs used to sail back- 
wards and forwards between the metropolis and the 
north with scarcely ever a shipwreck. Indeed, so few 
were the losses that the owners very rarely had their 

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craft insured. That meant that they could afford to 
carry their coal, iron, timber, hemp, flax, or whatever 
it might be, at low freights. There was keen com- 
petition to get their goods first to market, and some 
very sportive passages were made. The last of these 
interesting old craft, so cleverly handled, so fascinating 
as they must have been to watch, I believe ended her 
days in a North Sea gale not very long since. 

Hutchinson's enthusiasm for these is infectious. 
He has no literary power of expression, but in the plain, 
staccato language of a hard merchant sailor and privateer 
he makes one jealous of the sights which he saw with his 
own eyes and can never be seen again. There is not 
to-day — certainly as regards British waters — any such 
craft as a brig, unless there is one small training ship 
still cruising about Plymouth Sound. But in his day 
one sometimes saw a fleet of 300 of them all turning to 
windward, having every one of them come out of the 
Tyne on the same tide. The sight of so many fine little 
ships crossing and recrossing each other's bows so 
quickly, and with such little room, made a distinguished 
Frenchman hold up his hands, and remark " that it was 
there France was conquered." 

In going through such shallow and narrow channels 
as Yarmouth Roads the fleet collected themselves for 
mutual safety. In the absence of good charts and 
efficient buoyage — it was not till 1830 that the singular 
distinction of producing the worst charts passed away 
from England — it was essential to use great caution in 
such strong tideways. The procedure was, therefore, 
as follows : The fleet being now together, each ship had 
a man in the chains heaving his lead. He sung out the 
soundings loud enough for his neighbours to hear. This 
happened in every ship ; so that those vessels announcing 
shoal water would be recognised as getting too near the 
sands ; that other bunch of craft declaring consistentlv 

s 257 


deeper water would be in the channel, and the rest 
could follow their lead. In this manner the best water 
was always found. 

Anyone who has navigated up or down the Swin 
Channel at the entrance to the Thames Estuary knows 
that the region is full of shoals, made still more dangerous 
by the strong tides which set athwart them. In clear 
weather the excellent modern buoyage makes the 
passage easy. But in the eighteenth century, and in 
thick weather, when the fleet from Newcastle came to 
the Swin, they hoped to have a head wind, and not to 
be able to lie their course. Why ? Well, they smelt 
their way by continuous soundings, and if they were 
beating to windward they would find as they pro- 
longed each tack the water began to shoal ; it was 
then time to 'bout ship, and they stood on the other 
tack till the shallow water warned them once more. 
But if they had had a fair wind and been able to keep 
straight on, they ran the risk, they said, of getting piled 
up on the wrong side of the sand-spits in some swatch- 
way. Therefore the fleet adopted clever tactics. The 
lesser draught ships endeavoured to wait till the bigger 
vessels passed ahead. The former would then follow 
close behind, knowing that if the largest craft could 
float, so also could they. But when the bigger ships 
found the water shoaling, they, too, would let go anchor 
and let the smaller ships go ahead. Then the tide 
having flooded still more, and the small fry having been 
observed to be all right, up came the cables and the 
procession went on its way. It was just because these 
vessels had to experience such a great deal of anchor 
work that they held the record of any ships afloat for 
breaking out their hooks with their windlass in the 
shortest time. Whenever an ex-collier's crew shipped 
aboard another vessel, it was found that the windlass 
needed half the men to do the work. 

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Those were the days of real seamanship of all kinds 
and sorts, so we can afford in these modern times to 
admire a lost art. " Nice managers of sloop-rigged 
vessels," says this fine old skipper, " turning to wind- 
ward in narrow channels, when they want but little to 
weather a point, rather than make another tack, have 
a practice of running up in the wind till the headway 
ceases, then they fill again upon the same tack ; this 

Collier. Brigs Beating up the Swin. 

they call making a half board." But Hutchinson had 
no great faith in " weather-glasses," and even doubts 
" their being of any great service to seafaring people." 
However, he does admit that on one occasion he had 
warning of an approaching storm in the English 
Channel from Tampion's portable barometer. About 
seventy sailing ships had got under way from the 
Downs with a moderate south-east breeze. In the 
morning the quicksilver fell from 29j inches to 28j. 
He had all his small sails up, and ordered all hands to 



set to work and take in the small sails and lower the 
t'gallant yards. About eight in the evening the storm 
came on, the ship being now abreast of the Lizard, the 
wind having shifted to south-south-east. Suddenly it 
flew round to north-north-west, blew very strongly, and 
though he had no canvas aloft except the foresail in 
brails, yet it laid the ship more down on her broadside 
than ever he had known her. Later on they passed a 
ship bottom upwards, which had obviously foundered 
in the same squall. 

Hutchinson, who himself preferred squaresails cut 
deep and narrow rather than shallow and broad, 
alleging that thus they stood better on a wind, opined 
that because of this superior shape the colliers and 
timber-carriers already mentioned sailed so well and 
required so few hands. And we get just a brief refer- 
ence to the hardy Liverpool pilots of those days. 
Perhaps the reader is aware of the heavy sea which 
gets up among the sands at the mouth of the Mersey, 
and that in those waters it was and is often a most 
difficult undertaking to put a pilot on board an in- 
coming ship. In such weather that it was impossible 
for the pilot-sloop to get alongside the incoming ship 
the two craft would get as near to each other as they 
dared, and then the bigger craft would throw a small 
line aboard the sloop, which the pilot would quickly 
hitch round his body, leap overboard, and so be pulled 
on board — more drowned than alive, one would have 
thought. Sometimes the incoming craft would veer out 
a rope astern which the sloop would pick up, and the same 
business followed as before. But even the Liverpool 
pilots were not so brilliant as those whose duty it was to 
take ships out from the Tyne across the treacherous bar, 
when sometimes they were compelled to let the ship lie 
almost on her beam ends so as to float out into the North 
Sea without hitting the shoals at the river's mouth. 




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We have not much room to deal with the glorious 
fights of the privateers of those days. Those who are 
interested in the subject will find what they require in 
Captain Statham's " Privateers and Privateering." 
But we cannot pass on without at least a reference to 
these adventurous craft. Handsome enough were the 
prizes which sometimes they gained ; but many were the 
times they failed for the reason that, after some years 

"compelled to let the ship lie almost on her beam ends. 

of peace, their crews were undisciplined and untrained. 
But about the middle of the eighteenth century im- 
provements had been made in the metal, the casting and 
the boring of the cannon, which were now made not 
quite so heavy, and therefore of less inconvenience to a 
ship. Bags of horsehair were employed for protection 
against musket shot, whilst a rail, breast high, was 
affixed each side with light iron crutches and arms and 
netting to hold the men's hammocks and bedding long- 
ways. Rope shakings and cork shakings, too, were 



also employed as a further protection from the enemy's 
fire. But the powder that was served out in those 
scandalous days was often enough disgustingly weak 
and lacking in velocity. 

In the golden days of the privateer, so soon as she had 
got out to sea all hands would be called to quarters and 
officers sent to their stations ; there would be a general 
exercise of guns and small arms, everything made 
ready for action, and the general working of the ship 
thoroughly well drilled. Chasing and fighting had been 
brought down to the condition of a fine art, and there 
were recognised tactics according as to whether your 
opponent were as big, bigger, or smaller than yourself. 
If your enemy were your superior, it was better not to 
bring your ship right alongside, but, before the attack 
opened, get on his weather quarter, luff your ship into 
the wind with the helm alee, until your after lee gun, 
which you fired first, could be pointed on to the enemy's 
stern. Then batter away with your lee broadside. 
They endeavoured also to rake the enemy fore and aft 
with their biggest guns as they passed, their object 
being, if possible, to smash the rudder head, the tiller, 
tiller ropes and blocks — in fact, to destroy any of the 
steerage tackle so that the ship might become un- 
manageable, and thus readily fall into the hands of 
the privateer. 

One or two devices which have since passed away, 
but were in use during the eighteenth century, may be 
mentioned before we pass on. I wonder how many 
" seamen " now serving on steamships would know 
what " fothering " meant ? It was a device that in 
the days of the old wooden sailing ships saved both lives 
and ship on more than one occasion. This was an 
ingenious means of stopping a leak below the vessel's 
water-line when at sea and unable to beach or dry- 
dock. It was employed at least once during Captain 

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Cook's voyages at a critical time after the ship had 
struck on a rock, and the sea was pouring in so fast that 
the pumps were of httle avail. Moore, in his " Midship- 
man's Vocabulary," published in 1805, describes the 
method as performed by fastening a sail at the four 
corners, letting it down under the ship's bottom, and 
then putting a quantity of chopped rope-yarns, oakum, 
wool, cotton, etc., between it and the ship's side. By 
repeating this operation several times the leak sucks 
up a portion of the loose stuff, and so the water ceases 
for the most part to pour into the ship. Hutchinson 
also mentions that once when cruising the step of 
their foremast carried away in a gale of wind, and made 
so great a leak that pumping was little good. They 
were far from the nearest land, and matters were 
critical ; so they unbent the spritsail, stitched it over 
one side with oakum, then with ropes to the clews 
and ear-rings they applied it to the leak, and so effectu- 
ally stopped the hole that before long the pumps had 
freed the ship of water. 

There is nothing new, apparently, even in sea-sayings. 
Probably there is not an officer to-day in the Merchant 
Service who has never heard the maxim, " Better to 
break owners than orders." Well, Hutchinson knew 
this phrase, and used it not for trading, but for privateer- 
ing. The owners' orders were usually " to proceed 
with all possible expedition to the designed station to 
take prizes." And he had a very ingenious device, 
which, if I mistake not, was actually resurrected and 
tried with modifications in Southampton Water three 
or four years ago. Hutchinson's idea was to scrub ships' 
bottoms while at sea instead of having to bring them to 
dock or careen them. He had himself used this new 
method, which could easily be performed while at anchor 
or on the ocean in a calm. The device consisted of a 
frame of elm-boards enclosing a couple of 10-gallon 



casks with square spaces each side filled with birch- 
broom stuff that projected and was to come in contact 
with the ship's bottom. To use this a block was 
lashed under the bowsprit, and another at the stern on 
the driver boom. A single rope was rove through these 
blocks just long enough to haul the scrubber, which did 
its work fore-and-aftwise underneath the ship. 

The accompanying illustration may seem to the 
reader a fanciful picture, but it is nothing of the kind, 
and was made from a sketch done on the spot. In 
this will be noticed a ship with no fewer than thirty 
different sails. Hutchinson declares that in a light 
air — when he needed all the canvas he could spread — 
he turned to windward with all the sail drawing. As 
an ingenious piece of seamanship it is worthy of note, 
and surpasses the achievements of the clippers with 
their reputation for sky sails and moonrakers. He 
speaks of the sail on the aftermost mast as the mizzen, 
and that curious-looking canvas right at the stern as a 
large driver with a light boom to make it set properly. 
There were two tail blocks at the outer end thereof, 
lashed to the rail ; and in order that it might set better 
a bowline was attached. Below this will be observed 
the strange sight of a water-sail aft as well as forward. 
It was really a foretopmast stuns'l, and was hauled 
out to the end of the boom of the driver. As an example 
of what an ingenious skipper could do to get way on 
his ship in light airs, I think this illustration will be 
impossible to beat. 

There is an interesting volume entitled " A Mariner 
of England," which gives an account of the career of a 
William Richardson, who from cabin boy rose to the 
rank of warrant officer between the years 1780 and 
1819, a record that gives one a real insight into the 
life of a seaman at that time. When he joined H.M.S. 
Minerva, in 1793, as a bluejacket, there were no slop- 

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chests, but the purser at stated periods served out as 
many yards of dungaree as were required to each man 
for jackets, shirts, and trousers. Needles and thread 
were also served out, and then the men made the 
garments for themselves. He gives you, also, some 
idea of the mismanagement that went on ; the crews 
made up of raw, ignorant, and stupid men, commanded 
by a young post-captain who only three or four years 
ago had been midshipman. In tacking and wearing, 
however, the strictest discipline was enforced. Not a 
word was allowed to be spoken ; only the voice of the 
commanding officer was to be heard on those occasions, 
and the boatswain's pipe was just loud enough to be 
heard. Swearing was checked by putting down the 
names of the delinquents on a list, and these men were 
subsequently punished with seven or eight lashes at 
the most. The launch was stowed on the main deck 
under the booms; and on certain nights a lantern was 
hung up on deck, and a fiddler seated on the topsail- 
sheet bitts, and there would be dancing for those who 

The reader will remember we called attention some 
time back to those spritsails which seem so curious 
to us moderns. They were also known as " water 
sails " and as " Jimmy Greens," both appellations being 
due, obviously, to the unhappy knack they possessed 
of scooping up the sea. They are now long since 
obsolete, but they were retained for a long time for 
veering the ship's head round to leeward in the event 
of her foremast being shot away. But they were also 
used even when the foremast was standing — both on 
a wind and off. If on a wind the yard could be topped, 
and the sail could also be reefed diagonally. 

When Hood sent his dispatch to the Controller 
of the Navy announcing the victory of the British 
fleet at the Battle of the Saints in 1782, he made 



reference to some of Rodney's signals, e.g. for a 
general chase ; to steer more to starboard or port ; to 
shorten sail ; to set more canvas ; and if the admiral 
should wish to order his ships to cease firing, " the 
white flag at the fore topgallant masthead, before 
dark, calls every ship in." There were also night 
signals in use in the Royal Navy about this time. 
Thus, for instance, when the admiral wished to order 
his fleet to unmoor and ride short he hung out three 
lights, one above another, in the main topmast shrouds 
above the " constant " light in the maintop, and fired 
two guns, which were answered by the flagships, each 
private ship hanging out a light in her mizzen shrouds. 
So also when the signal was being given to weigh anchor, 
the admiral hung out some light on the maintopmast 
shrouds and fired a gun, which was answered by the 
flagships and private ships as before. 

Apart altogether from the unsatisfactory kind of 
seamen which often made up the crews of the English 
Navy, matters were far from ideal among their officers. 
There was a spirit of decadence even here. When 
Benbow was sent to the Spanish Main to seize Cartagena, 
and fell in with the French, his own captains disobeyed 
orders, kept out of action, and allowed Benbow to fight 
the enemy practically single-handed. Similarly, when 
Matthews was in the Mediterranean attacking the com- 
bined Spanish-French fleets, he was basely betrayed by 
Lestock, who kept astern out of action. As the result 
of an inquiry, not only was Lestock not punished, but 
Matthews, who happened to sit in Parliament on the 
side of the Opposition, had his name struck off the 
Navy List. There are, unfortunately, too many instances 
of this kind of thing on record during this century. 
Some were loyal and straightforward, but none the less 
inefficient. The captains, wrote Admiral Keppel to 
Lord Hawke in August, 1778, " are indeed fine officers, 

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and the ships are fine. Some of them, indeed, want 
more experience in disciphne to do all that can be 
expected from them, but a complete fleet cannot be 
formed in a day. Our greatest want is petty officers, 
and that deficiency is general." And then, you will 
remember, all the discontent among the seamen cul- 
minated in the year 1797, when a series of mutinies 
broke out. The first was at Spithead, when Lord 
Bridport was about to take his fleet to sea. He had 
made the signal to unmoor, when suddenly every ship's 
company gave three cheers and refused to go until 
their pay was increased. They made one exception, 
however ; if the French fleet were out then they would 
put to sea to fight them, otherwise they declined to go. 
Lieutenant Philip Beaver, who was serving on the 
Monarch, writing to his sister two days after this event, 
admits that with one exception all the crews behaved 
" with great prudence, decency, and moderation . . . 
and obey their officers as before in the regular routine 
of ship's duty — saying that they are not dissatisfied 
with their officers or the service, but are determined to 
have an increase of pay, because it has not been in- 
creased since the time of Charles the First, and that 
everything since that period has risen 50 per cent, that 
no attention had been paid to their petitions." Eventu- 
ally the statements of the men were found to be well 
substantiated, and they were pardoned. But there was 
another mutiny on May 7 ; six days later another broke 
out at the Nore, and in the same month among the 
men of Admiral Duncan's fleet off the Texel, and even 
in Jervis' fleet off Cadiz. 

In no respect is the canker of the eighteenth century 
better shown than in the condition of tactics displayed 
by the admirals of this time. During the Anglo-Dutch 
wars, many a valuable and wholesome lesson had been 
learned by the English Navy, but the Battle of Malaga 



in 1704 showed that instead of tactical progress being 
made, the age had become — to quote an apt expression of 
Admiral Mahan — "the epoch of mere seamanship." As 
soon as inspiration deserts art, we all know how valueless 
becomes mere technique. It was much the same with 
eighteenth-century tactics. There was not a breath of 
inspiration ; it was a period of formality, of stiff in- 
sincerity both ashore and afloat. The curse of our 
policy in fighting naval battles was the fetish of the 
cast-iron tactics which no officer dared to modify. It 
was not till Hawke came swooping down that these 
lifeless, formal affairs began to improve. Till his time 
there was far greater respect for the letter than the 
spirit of tactics, so that a naval battle between the 
English and her enemy was just this : the English fleet 
came along in line-ahead, and then each ship laid her- 
self alongside the corresponding ship of the enemy's 
line, with the result that there was a series of duels. 

Hawke's idea was not that, but to concentrate his 
whole force against a part of the enemy's fleet, and this 
idea was carried out by Rodney, when he defeated the 
French at the Battle of the Saints in 1782. It is true 
that the signal book then in use in the Royal Navy, 
plus the inefficient state of the service generally, caused 
Rodney's signal to be misunderstood. But it turned out 
better than it might have done. In medieval times, 
the great idea was to lay your ship aboard the other 
ship and fight her to a finish. Then, the reader will 
remember, came the Cromwellian period, which altered 
all this. But instead of continuing this progress, the 
eighteenth century actually reverted to the medieval 
method, and this was the practice against which Hawke 
and Rodney set their faces determinedly. 

In the matter of tactics, as in shipbuilding, the 
French were decidedly our superiors. And our officers 
— or, at any rate, those who were keen and zealous for 

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the service — recognised this. " I beheve you will, 
with me, think it something surprising," wrote Captain 
Kempenfelt to the Comptroller of the Navy, " that we, 
who have been so long a famous maritime power, 
should not yet have established any regular rules for 
the orderly and expeditious performance of the several 
evolutions necessary to be made in a fleet. The French 
have long since set us the example. . . . Oh, but 'tis 
said by several, our men are better seamen than the 
French. But the management of a private ship and a 
fleet are as different from each other as the exercising 
of a firelock and the conducting of an army. . . . The 
men who are best disciplined, of whatever country they 
are, will always fight the best. ... In fine, if you will 
neither give an internal discipline for your ships, nor a 
system of tactics for the evolutions of your fleet, I 
don't know from what you are to expect success. . . . 
We should, therefore, immediately and in earnest set 
about a reform ; endeavours should be used to find out 
proper persons, and encouragement offered for such to 
write on naval tactics, as also to translate what the 
French have published on that subject. They should 
also enter into the plan of education at our marine 
academies." The date of this letter was January 18, 
1780, and in saying what he did Captain Kempenfelt 
was placing his finger on the real point of the matter. 

It was two years after this that John Clerk published 
his " Essay on Naval Tactics." British officers of this 
period had a supreme contempt for book learning, 
just as the simpler sort of seaman has to-day. But it 
was not till Clerk published the above book that 
officers began to change their mind. Up till now 
works on tactics had been French. Clerk's was the first 
volume on this subject in the English tongue. It is 
not too much to assert that this completely revolu- 
tionised British naval tactics, and that to its teaching 



were largely due the victories of Rodney, Howe, Duncan, 
and St. Vincent. And the interesting fact was that it was 
written not by an officer, but by a layman ; not by a 
seaman, but by a Scotch laird. Those who are attracted 
by the subject of tactics will find much in this book 
that is instructive, even though steam and steel ships 
and our present-day weapons never entered into 
Clerk's contemplation. And the numerous plans 
criticising actual contemporary sea fights will be found 
most helpful to a complete understanding of the 
nautical events of this period. 

One of the most memorable battles in the whole of 
our naval history was that which is known as the 
" Glorious First of June," 1794. The tactics which 
Howe employed on this occasion are interesting, 
because, although he formed his fleet in line-abreast, 
and was able to disable the enemy's rear, forcing their 
van and centre to break away to support their rear, 
yet there was such a ship-to-ship mode of attack that 
it may seem to have been a reversion to the olden days 
of medievalism. But the reason for this was that 
Howe was well aware that, crew for crew, the English 
were superior to the French. The result proved that 
his belief was well grounded, for at this time the 
crisis in the British Navy had just passed, the improve- 
ment in tactics had taken place, and the decadent ebb 
had already run its course. 

The kind of fighting instructions which had been 
issued by Russel in 1691 and continued till after the 
Battle of the Saints in 1782, was superseded very 
shortly after the latter date. It was Lord Howe who 
made this change, so that the basis of the new tactical 
code was no longer the Fighting Instructions, but the 
Signal Book. Instead of the signals being secondary 
to the instructions, the position was now exactly 
reversed. In 1790 these fighting instructions took a 


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second form, in the shape of a new code of signals, and 
upon this tactical system were based all the great 
actions of the Nelson period. The code continued until 
the year 1816, when an entirely new signal book 
appeared, which was based on Sir Home Popham's 
code, the latter having been in use for a number of 
years for " telegraphing." It was Popham's code that 
was used for making Nelson's famous signal at 

Howe's tactics at the Glorious First of June were 
illustrative of the ideas which were then rooted in 
the minds of British admirals. By sailing in line- 
abreast instead of adhering rigidly to the eternal line- 
ahead, Howe showed that he was conscious of the 
modern progress in tactics. But there his appreciation 
ended. For, as you peruse the events of this battle, 
you find that the rest of the contest became confused 
and haphazard, the British admirals throwing over the 
lessons of Clerk and employing just their own ideas 
and initiative. The credit of the Battle of St. Vincent 
belongs to the daring of Nelson in taking upon himself 
a heavy responsibility when he saw that Jervis had 
made a tactical mistake. We have no room to deal 
with this here ; but I wish to remind the reader that 
the line-head formation was that adopted by Jervis. 
Just before the battle, when he perceived how the 
Spaniards were disposed in two divisions, he resolved 
to pass between them in single line-ahead, separate 
them thoroughly, and then concentrate on the one 
division which was much larger than the other. Thus, 
clearly, he belonged to the same school of tacticians 
as Rodney and Howe. 

It was in the middle of the reign of George II that f 
a regular uniform was first adopted for the officers of 
the English Navy. Hitherto they had worn the same 
kind of clothes which their contemporaries wore in the 



streets ashore. Every man dressed in the manner he 
preferred. But in the year 1747 the question of a 
uniform colour and pattern was being discussed when 
the King himself settled the point. It happened on this 
wise. A certain admiral had been sent to the Admiralty 
on an entirely different matter by the Duke of Bedford, 
who was then First Lord. He was ushered into an 
apartment surrounded by various dresses, and was 
asked to state which of these he considered the most 
appropriate ; to which the admiral answered that he 
thought blue or red, or red and blue, since these were 
our national colours. " No," replied the Duke, " the 
King has determined otherwise ; for having seen my 
Duchess riding in the Park a few days ago, in a habit 
of blue, faced with white, the dress took the fancy of 
His Majesty, who has appointed it for the uniform of 
the Royal Navy.''^ Since that time, as the reader is 
aware, these two colours, blue and white, have remained 
the colours of our Navy, although the cut of the clothes 
has altered from time to time. 

We alluded just now to the introduction of wheels 
on board sailing ships, and endeavoured to fix the date 
as approximately the middle of this century. The 
following account of the Great Storm on November 27, 
1703 (in which no fewer than thirteen men-o'-war were 
lost, many more seriously damaged, and the Eddystone 
lighthouse destroyed), shows that tillers, as in Eliza- 
bethan days, were still used, and the wheel not yet 
invented. The following is the autograph report by 
Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel, commanding a squadron 
of eight ships in the Downs. The fact that the ships 
drifted all the way from the Downs to the Galloper (in 
the North Sea) gives some indication of the fury of 
that autumn hurricane. This dispatch is among the 
MSS. preserved in the British Musbum : — 

1 "Greenwich Royal Hospital, ' by Edward Fraser, 


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On Saturday last sooiie in the morning wee had a 
most miserable Storme of Wind, which drove us to 
some Streights, for after wee had veerrd out more than 
three Cables of our best bower that Anchor broke, soon 
after our Tillar broke, and before we could secure our 
Rudder it broke from our Sterne, and has shaken our 
Stern Post that we prove very leakey, and had our four 
Chaine Pumps and a hand Pump goeing to keep us free. 
We lett go our Sheete Anchor, and veered out all the 
Cables to it, butt that did not ride us, butt wee drove 
near a sand called the Galloper, of which we saw the 
breach ; I directed the Maine Mast to be cutt by the 
Board, after which we ridd fast. Of eight Ships that 
came out of the Downes four are missing, the Association, 
Russell, Revenge, and Dorsettshire ; pray God they 
drove cleare of the sand. . . . 

" P.S. I doubt it has farr'd worse with the four 
Ships that have drove away than it has done with us : 
I have some hopes that some of them have drove to 
Sea ; but if so they are without Anchors or Cables and 
may be without Masts : I judge it will be of Service if 
some Friggt were sent out to looke for them." 

And yet there was at least one ship which had the 
wheel invention in the year 1747. In Hawke's dispatch 
to the Secretary to the Admiralty, recording the action 
off Rochelle, in August, 1747, after relating that he 
kept his wind as close as possible so as to help the 
Eagle and Edinburgh, which had lost her foretopmast, 
he relates that " this attempt of ours was frustrated by 
the Eaglets falling twice on board us, having had her 
wheel shot to pieces." We may, therefore, fix the date 
of the first steering wheel as not earlier than 1703, and 
not later than 1747. 





HE first sixty or seventy years of 
the nineteenth century saw the 
art of the seaman at its highest 
state of perfection. There was 
never anything to equal it either 
before or since in the achieve- 
ments rendered by the sailors 
who manned the famous "wooden 
walls " of Nelson's time, who 
took the stately East Indiaman 
backwards and forwards with so 
much ceremony and safety, or 
hurried along the tea clipper at 
a continuous rate which has never since been surpassed 
by any fleet of sail-propelled ships. 

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there 
were royal dockyards at Chatham, Portsmouth, 
Plymouth, Deptford, Woolwich, and Sheerness ; and 
here His Majesty's ships were generally moored in the 
piping times of peace. The first three of these yards 
were governed by a resident commissioner, who super- 
intended all the musters of the officers, artificers, and 
labourers employed in the dockyard. He controlled the 
payments, examined the accounts, contracts, etc., and 
generally regulated the dockyard. Large ships, such 
as those mighty wooden walls which could carry a 
hundred guns, were usually built in dry dock, with 

5 ) i 








strong flood gates to prevent the tide from coming in. 
Wlien the time came for launching, and it was spring 
tides, the gates were opened and the ship floated out. 
But small craft, such as frigates and corvettes, were 
built on the slips, and then launched by means of a 
cradle which sped down the ways, the latter having 
been previously greased with soap or tallow. 

The oak of which these craft were built usually came 
from the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, and the New 
Forest, Hants. But as ships were built out in the open, 
the weather got into the wood and rotted it, so that 
sometimes a ship was condemned before she was ever 
put in commission ; and, in any case, the life of some 
wooden walls was under ten years. Others lasted for a 
long period, as, for instance. Nelson's Victory, which 
was built in the year 1765. The method of building 
was curiously medieval, and almost Viking-like in its 
simplicity. The timbers were secured by treenails to 
the planking. They were preferred to spike-nails or 
bolts, as the latter were liable to rust with the sea 
water and get loose. The thickness of the treenail was 
proportioned to the length of the ship, one inch being 
allowed to every hundred feet. In the Royal Navy 
and in the East India Service ships were always 
sheathed with copper to protect the hull against 
worms. The copper was quite thin, brown paper being 
inserted between the sheathing and the oak. Other 
ships than these two classes had thin deal boards 
nailed over the outside of the bottom for the same 

After the new ship had been floated out of her dock 
she was taken alongside a sheer-hulk. The latter was 
an old man-o'-war, which had been dismantled and 
refitted with one very high mast, strengthened with 
shrouds and stays to secure the sheers which served as 
the arm of a crane for hoisting ships' masts in or out, 



and getting the yards on to the new vessel. Her sails 
were bent, her guns and ammunition taken aboard, 
and away she went for her first commission. Not one 
of these " wooden walls " carried any canvas above 
royals. They could not travel fast through the water 
even on a wind, for they were bulky, clumsy, and 
cumbrous. Their lines were not sweet, they had a 
huge, heavy body to drive through the water ; they 
were slow in stays, and they were not easy to handle. 
They rolled so badly, that in heavy weather they 
sometimes rolled their masts out. 

With a hundred guns aboard and most of a thousand 
men, a three-decker was certainly an interesting sight. 
Her guns were arranged in rows along her decks. The 
lower gun-deck was little above the water-line. A 
100-gun ship in Nelson's time cost over £67,000, and 
these three decks ran from stem to stern, besides a 
forecastle and a quarter-deck, the former of which 
extended aft from the stem to the belfry, where the 
ship's bell was suspended under a shelter. The 
quarter-deck extended from aft to the mainmast. 
There was also a poop-deck, and another deck below 
the lower gun-deck, called the orlop, where the cables 
were coiled and the sails stowed. The gun-room was 
on the after end of the lower gun-deck, and partly used 
by the gunner ; but in frigates and smaller vessels, 
where it was below, it was used by the lieutenants as a 
mess-room. The ward-room was over the gun-room, 
where the superior officers messed and slept. 

In action the guns were run out, by means of side 
tackles, till their muzzles were well outside the port, 
so that the flash of the gun might not set the ship's 
side on fire. These ports were fitted with heavy square 
lids. In bad weather it was impossible to open the 
lower-deck ports lest the sea should swamp the ship. 
There was a kind of shutter also, called a half-port, 

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with a circular hole in the centre large enough to go 
over the muzzle of the gun, and furnished with a piece 
of canvas nailed round its edge to tie on the gun and 
prevent the water entering the port, although the gun 
remained run out. These were used chiefly on the 
main deck. Ropes were made fast to the outside of 
the lids attached to a tackle within, by which the port- 
lids could be drawn up. 

There was but little light 'tween decks in these ships 
even by day, and the glimmer of a purser's dip was the 
only illumination. The magazines, however, were 
lighted through what was termed a " light-room." 
The latter was a small apartment with double-glass 
windows towards the magazine. No candle could, of 
course, be taken into the latter, so the gunner and his 
assistants filled their cartridges with powder by the 
candles shining through the windows. In the bigger 
men-o'-war there were two light rooms ; one attached 
to the after magazine, and the other which gave light 
to the fore or great magazine. The after magazine 
contained just enough supply of cartridges for the 
after guns during action, but the great magazine had 
enough powder for the ship for a long period. 

The cables were usually of 120 fathoms and made of 
hemp, bass, or Indian grass, though the biggest ships 
used hemp exclusively for their heavy anchors. The 
change from hemp to chain cables came in 1812, and 
these were much appreciated as saving a great deal 
of valuable space below. For the hemp cables when 
coiled down in a frigate's cable-tier filled nearly a 
quarter of her hold, and when it is remembered that a 
1000-ton ship had a cable measuring over 8 inches in 
diameter, and that a 2|^-inch chain was just as strong 
— the breaking strain exceeded 65 tons — but took up 
less space, we can well understand that hemp was not 
altogether an advantage, notwithstanding that in bad 



weather these heavy, bluff ships would ride far easier 
to the rope than the chain. The largest anchor used 
weighed five tons. It had a wooden stock and broad 

Because these hemp cables were so thick there 
must needs be very large hawse-pipes. Now these 
ships not only rolled ; they pitched in a sea-way, and 
consequently they took in a great deal of water through 
these pipes. In order to prevent the water getting 
adrift all over the ship, there was a large compartment 
fitted up just abaft the hawse-pipes and called the 
manger. This stretched athwart the deck, separated 
on the after part by the manger-board, which was a 
strong bulkhead, the water being allowed to return to 
the sea through scuppers. Leather pipes were nailed 
round the outside of the lower-deck scuppers, which, by 
hanging down, prevented the water from entering when 
the ship heeled under a press of canvas. 

The cables led in through the hawse-pipes below deck 
to the bitts. To bitt the cable was to put it round the 
bitts, which were frames of strong timbers fixed per- 
pendicularly into the ship. The " bitter end " was 
that part of the cable which was abaft the bitts, and 
not allowed to run out. Hence the common expression 
" to the bitter end " has no reference to the other 
meaning of the word spelt in a similar way. These 
cables were in lengths of 40 fathoms, and then spliced 
to make the 120 fathoms. Naturally a heavy ship 
such as a 100-gun first-rate carried a great deal of way. 
When, therefore, the anchor was let go, the friction of 
the cable passing through the hawse-pipe was some- 
thing enormous, and the hemp became so hot that the 
tar on its surface often took fire, therefore men were 
always stationed to stand by with buckets of water. 
Likewise, the bitts and timbers round the heated 
hawse-pipes had to be attended to. Another draw- 

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back to a rope cable was that it chafed a great deal. 
In coral-bottomed waters it was customary to arm with 
chains that part which was likely to be worn ; and the 
cable was also sometimes buoyed with casks lashed at 
intervals, so as to float safely above the rough bottom 
of the sea-bed. 

There is an interesting passage in a letter written by 
Captain Duff of H.M.S. Mars, in 1805, to his wife, in 
which the following words occur : " October 10th. I 
am sorry the rain has begun to-night, as it will spoil my 
fine work, having been employed for this week past to 
paint the ship a la Nelson, which most of the fleet are 
doing." That, of course, was just a few days before 
Trafalgar. And there is a phrase in a letter written by 
a young midshipman to his father, in 1794, telling him 
all about the Glorious First of June battle. " The 
French . . . called us the little devil, and the little 
black ribband, as we have a black streak painted on 
our side." The explanation of these two passages is as 
follows. Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century 
it was left to a captain's own taste to paint his ship 
whatever colours he liked. There was no uniformity 
as to-day, but generally a ship was painted with a wide 
black streak along the water-line just above the copper 
sheathing. This streak ran right round the ship, and 
in depth reached to the lower gun-deck. Above this 
the hull was painted a brownish yellow, but sometimes 
it was more a lemon-colour. The after upper works 
above the gun-decks and the outer sides of the poop 
above the quarter-deck guns were painted a vivid red 
or blue. 

This bright band of colour gradually faded until, by 
the time Trafalgar was fought, it became a dull, deep 
blue — almost black. Round the forecastle ran a band 
of scarlet or pale blue edged with gold, and continued 
down the beak to the figurehead. The outsides of the 



port-lids were a brownish yellow like the sides, and the 
stern walks were decorated with elaborate gilt carvings, 
cherubs and dolphins and mermaids, the royal arms, 
and wreaths, etc. Round the stern of each ship, outside 
the glazed windows of the cabin, ran a quarter gallery 
for the captain, while at the bows a figurehead was 
seen which was regarded with a sentimental interest 
and kept in good condition. But Nelson had his ships 
painted black, with a yellow streak along each tier of 
ports, and the port-lids were painted black. This 
chequer painting, then, was the method " a /a Nelson " 
to which Captain Duff was referring. 

Internally the sides of the ships were still painted a 
blood-red, for the reason already given in an earlier 
century. So also were the inner sides of the port-lids. 
But after Trafalgar the interiors were sometimes 
painted in other colours, such as green or yellow or 
even brown, until, after the year 1840, white became 
uniform. Many internal fittings such as the gun- 
carriages, and even the guns themselves, were painted 
red or chocolate during the Nelson period. The lower 
masts were painted a dull yellow, the topmasts and 
upper spars varnished a dark brown, and the lower yards 
and gaffs painted black. The blocks, the chains, the 
dead-eyes, the wooden and iron fittings for the rigging 
were all tarred black, just as one often finds them 
to-day on some old coaster or fishing smack. The 
masts of the British warships were painted white 
usually before any engagement with the French, so as 
to distinguish them from the Gallic masts, which were 

It was the superiority of the British gunnery which 
won most of our battles against the French, even when 
the latter had better ships and faster. The British 
directed their fire chiefly against the hull, whereas the 
French aimed at the rigging. The cartridges were filled 

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Course, Topsail, and Topgallant Sail of an 
Early Nineteenth-Century Ship. 


in the magazines and handed up to the fighting decks 
above by the powder-monkeys. Along the decks were 
arranged, at intervals, match-tubs to receive the slow- 
matches used in firing the guns, whilst in the cockpit 
of the ship the surgeon and his mates were busy 
attending to the wounded. The 'tween decks were 
very cramped, and there was not much air, and there 
was still a good deal of disease rampant among the 
seamen. The surgeon's mate messed in a space only 
six feet square in the cockpit, " screened off with canvas, 
and shut in by chests, dark as a dungeon, and smelling 
intolerably of putrefied cheese and rancid butter." 

After the end of the eighteenth century, the salutary 
practice of building ships under cover became general. 
Nowadays, of course, most ships are constructed in the 
open air. But in the time we are speaking of the ship- 
men built with wood and not steel. And when the 
weather was not allowed to get inside and rot the wood, 
it was found that the vessels lasted much longer than 
before. Furthermore, the method of uniting two pieces 
of timber together by " scarfing " was introduced. It 
was done either by letting the end of one piece of wood 
into the end of the other, or by laying the two ends 
together and fastening a third piece to them both. 
Thus, curved timbers could be made with pieces of 
straight timber. This may seem quite a small matter 
to some, but when it is stated that until this device was 
employed ships ready for launching were sometimes 
detained on the stocks for a considerable period until 
natural bent timbers could be found, it will be seen 
that Sir Robert Seppings, the inventor, was performing 
an excellent service to the Admiralty. 

And there were other improvements which were 
only justified. That effusive gilt decoration — the 
scrolls, the allegorical figures, the wreaths (which had 
come in during Caroline times), the heavy brackets for 

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the poop-lanterns were all to come under the chastening 
hand of simplicity. The stern galleries became simpler 
in character and fewer in number, the spritmast dis- 
appeared and the spritsail, though the spritsail yard 
remained for some time. In the Merchant Service the 
'' Jimmy Green " continued till well into the nineteenth 
century ; and the yard of the lateen mizzen had long 
since been lopped off to become a gaff, as also the 
triangular mizzen sail had become quadrilateral and a 
boom had been added. Masts were made taller, but 
the bowsprit was no longer a quasi-mast, as it had been 
since medieval days. Staysails had come into use from 
Dutch origin, and royals — or, as Hutchinson called 
them, "topgallant royals" — and studding-sails were 
already well established during the latter part of the 
eighteenth century. The triangular headsails were 
relied upon for getting the ship's head round, and 
consequently the foremast was no longer placed so far 
forward as it had been in Tudor and Stuart times. 

During the reign of George III, a three-decker 
carried either 32- or 42-pounders on her lower gun-deck, 
24-pounders on her middle deck, and either 12- or 
6-pounders on her upper deck. On the forecastle and 
quarter-deck 6-pounders were fired. It was the 32- 
pounders which began to be recognised as the largest 
satisfactory gun for the first-rates, and so continued 
till about 1840. In place of the old EHzabethan powder- 
horn and linstock, gun-locks and firing-tubes were 
introduced, and the system of ventilating ships, intro- 
duced during the eighteenth century by Dr. Hales, 
made for the improved health of both ships and crews. 

Many of those who emigrated from these shores to 
the United States of America can still remember the 
sailing ships which carried them through gales with 
safety. That was the time when the ship's deck was 
like a veritable farmyard. There were no condensed 



foods, no patent refrigerating arrangements, no water- 
condensers ; so the ship's long-boat, stowed securely 
on deck, became filled with pens of sheep and pigs, 
while cackling ducks and quacking geese reminded the 
agricultural emigrants of the homes they had just left. 
There was a cow-house on deck, and on some ships there 
was even a small kitchen-garden in boxes filled with 
earth, which reposed in the jolly-boat. In those 
smaller ships carrying no passengers, the pigs and 
poultry had practically the whole run of the ship. 
Milk was obtained from the goats and cows, but occa- 
sionally, when the wild Atlantic made a clean sweep of 
the deck, this article of food was impossible till the next 
port was reached. 

The eighteenth-century transatlantic ships used to 
make only two trips a year, taking four months for the 
round voyage and back. The quickest trip was the 
homeward one to England, for there was a favourable 
westerly wind to run before. But even with a head 
wind, these old packets made good their 40 knots a day. 
And so matters went on till the volume of trade and 
the number of emigrants had so much increased as to 
create a demand for the bigger ships of about 800 tons 
that came in 1840. 

I hope on another occasion to tell at greater length 
the story of that fine class of ship known as the East 
Indiaman, which has long since disappeared from the 
sea. I have but little space left here to deal with a 
species of ship that was scarcely inferior to many of 
those in His Majesty's service. Although nominally 
merchantmen, yet they so much enjoyed the patronage 
of the Government, that to be officer in the East India 
Company's service was almost the equivalent of a 
commission in the Royal Navy. So well paid were the 
East India captains and their staff, and so many hand- 
some emoluments besides were there attached to their 

^^'^^.l,,ll ^Jl\V^M^.\ 


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posts, that you are not altogether surprised to find, as 
you look down the names of these officers, men of title 
and the younger sons of some of the best English 

Promotion was made by seniority, and a captain was 
assigned to his ship even before she was launched, so 
that he had an opportunity of knowing every timber 
and every plank in her hull. He superintended her 
fitting out, and when she was at last complete with 
her spars and sails, her complement of passengers, her 
cargo and her crew, she put to sea, but she was in no 
tremendous hurry to get to the Orient. Her voyaging 
was to be safe and sure, like her captain's remuneration. 
For he was allowed by the directors 56j tons of space 
for carrying cargo on his own account, the rates of 
freights then varying from £35 to £40 a ton. Captains 
did their own chartering, and in one way and another 
accumulated very large perquisites. A conservative 
estimate places the income of some of these skippers as 
from £6000 to £10,000 a year ; and the mates and petty 
officers managed to feather their own nests very amply 
as well. 

The discipline of these ships was founded on the 
prevailing custom in the Royal Navy. They flew the 
Navy's long pendant. They were built like some of 
the Admiralty frigates, they were fitted out on similar 
lines, and they were handled in like manner. But they 
were slightly fuller-bodied than the Admiralty ships in 
order to carry plenty of cargo. The accommodation 
for passengers was, considering the times, luxurious. 
At the end of each homeward voyage these ships were 
entirely dismantled and given a complete refit, the 
passengers selling their state-room furniture by auction 
on board before going ashore. The directors looked 
well after the men as well as holding out encourage- 
ment to the officers. Seamen of eight vears' service 



were permitted pensions. The crews were divided into 
two watches, the officers having three watches — four 
hours on and eight hours off. The men messed in 
batches of eight, their allotted space being between the 
guns in the 'tween decks. Here also were their mess- 
utensils and their sea-chests, and here were slung their 
hammocks. Every Sunday morning after the crew had 
been inspected they were, by the regulations of the 
Company, to attend Divine service, the captain acting 
as chaplain. If a commander's log-book was found to 
have omitted this duty he was Hable to a fine of two 
guineas. He wore a uniform consisting of a blue coat 
having black velvet lapels with cuffs and collar. There 
was plenty of gold embroidery and gilt buttons with the 
Company's device thereon. The breeches were buff, he 
wore a black stock or neckcloth, and a cocked hat and 
side-arms completed the picture. 

So also the crews were constantly drilled at their 
guns and trained to handle cutlass, musket, and 
boarding pike. There were two men to every job, 
there was plenty of food, and there was no cause for 
grumbling at overwork. There was plenty of rum, 
there were good quarters and good prospects. And 
yet for all that there were reckless fellows who could not 
realise their good fortune. Wlien they had offended 
they were brought before the ship's court-martial in true 
naval fashion and sentenced to the cat-o'-nine-tails. 
And no man could complain that the commander was 
" driving " his ship ; for every evening, no matter how 
fine the weather looked, the royals and all light sails 
such as studding-sails were stowed, and the royal yards 
sent down on deck. No risks were run unnecessarily, 
and if the weather looked at all threatening the 
t'gallant sails and mainsail were stowed and a single 
reef tucked into the topsails. The aim was to combine 
safety with comfort, and so they snugged down every 

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night, and by day whenever there was the least tempta- 
tion. But the East India was a fine service and a 
splendid school for British seamanship, a calling that 

Man in the Chains Heaving the Lead on an 
Old Wooden Sailing Ship. 

(From a contemporary lithograph.) 

has so considerably died out during the last forty years. 
In the year 1832 the valuable monopoly which the East 
India Company had enjoyed for so long a time was put 
an end to. Commerce was thrown open, competition 



entirely altered the previous conditions, and at last this 
fine fleet was sold and disbanded. 

But it was the period of the clipper which simultane- 
ously brought seamanship to unheard-of attainment, 
and chanted its swan-song. The period is covered 
roughly by the years 1840 to 1870. It was introduced 
owing to a demand for the more rapid delivery of goods, 
especially tea, which does not improve by remaining in 
a ship's hold. It was given a strong impetus by the 
discovery of gold in California, and the eager rush of 
prospectors to reach that part quickly. The rush to 
Australia in like manner was a still further impetus to 
the development of the clipper ship at the middle of the 
nineteenth century. The China tea trade in the 'fifties 
and 'sixties caused these ships to be improved and 
developed and handled to the utmost limits, until the 
opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 gave it its death-blow. 
For a time it lingered, yet the collateral encouragement 
of the steamship made it impossible for the sailing ship 
to pay her way across the ocean. But there never have 
been such smart ocean passages so continuously main- 
tained as by the China clippers of the 'sixties. There 
never were better sailing ships built of wood, and there 
never were captains who " cracked on " or crews who 
could work such big canvas-propelled craft with such 
distinction. This was the period when a ship was not 
content with t'gallants and royals, but must needs set 
sky sails and moonrakers. 

A very fine type of clipper was built in 1859 by 
Messrs. Robert Steel and Son, at Greenock, to which 
class belonged such famous ships as the Falcon and 
Fiery Cross. They were beautifully designed craft and 
splendidly built, with ample deck space for working the 
ship and small deck-houses, and were kept up almost as 
smartly as a modern sailing yacht with polished brass- 
work, holystoned decks, and well-found gear. The 

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clipper Seaforth, which was built in 1863, brought about 
quite a revolution in the sailing ship's equipment, for 
she was the first sailing vessel to have steel spars and 
wire rigging. Her lower masts, her topmasts, and her 
topsail yards and bowsprit were all steel likewise. 

In one respect these old tea clippers were curiously 
medieval, though the practice continued also in the 
ships of the Royal Navy till well on into the nineteenth 
century. This was in the matter of loose ballast. These 
tea clippers carried about 300 tons of shingle ballast 
laid evenly along the bottom of the ship, and upon this 
shingle were laid the chests of tea, and considerable 
dunnage was put in as well. These ships had a registered 
tonnage of about 700 tons, and could carry about 1000 
tons of tea. They were worked by a crew of about 
thirty ; they were captained by skippers of the utmost 
ability and prudence, who, unlike the East Indiaman 
captains, did not worry about snugging down at night- 
fall, but first and- foremost were bent on getting the 
cargo to the London river in the least possible time. 
They " cracked on " and undertook risks in gales of 
wind which would have terrified many another com- 
mander. But it was to their interests to make smart 
passages. Some of them were part-owners, and there 
was a premium of ten shillings a ton to the skipper who 
landed the first cargo of a season's tea. Thus, in 
addition to his other emoluments, there was a chance 
of making an extra £500 after a quick voyage. Many 
of the crews had served their time in sailing ships of the 
Royal Navy, so a captain could rely on getting the best 
out of his fine ship. Some of these skippers retired with 
large fortunes ; but the premium system led to a great 
deal of jealousy and unpleasantness. For it might 
happen — it did', in fact, occur — that one ship might 
make the fastest sailing passage to Dungeness and yet 
get her package of tea ashore some time after the 

u 289 


second vessel, simply because the latter had been 
fortunate in picking up a more powerful tug to tow 
her from Dungeness to London. So, eventually, this 
premium method had to be abandoned. 

When we remember that such vessels as the Taeping 
and other clippers have been known to maintain for 
long periods an average of 13 knots an hour, we may 
well regret that the coming of the steamship was not 
delayed a century later, to give these ships a complete 
epoch of their own. Perhaps in the course of events 
time will wreak its revenge, and give us back once more 
a period of true seamanship and a recurrence of the 
most interesting ways of a ship. 






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_5 — J - 


BiTTACLE (Binnacle). 









Gripe, to. 
Gripe of a ship. 



See pp. 214 and 253. 

Posts on a deck to which cables, etc., could be 

Ropes round the edge of a sail to prevent tearing. 

Seep. 1.58. 

See p. 252. 

Small ropes used for the purpose of shortening a 
ship's canvas. 

To lay a ship over on to her side for the purpose 
of cleaning, caulking, etc. 

Short projecting beams serving as a bracket to 
suspend the anchor clear of the bows. 

Canvas laced on the bonnet of a sail to give it 
more drop. 

A large square sail set occasionally upon the 
mizzen-yard or gaff. 

Loose wood or other material packed in the hold 
with the cargo to prevent it from shifting. 

See p. 262. 

A spar used for extending the upper edge of a 
fore-and-aft rectangular sail. 

To come up into the wind in spite of the helm. 

1 . The sharpness of her stern under the water. 

2. A projection added to the keel. 

Lashings securing a boat in its place. 

Ropes and tackle used in connection with anchors 
and mooring apparatus generally. 

The metal linings to the hawse-holes or holes in a 
ship's bows through which the cable passes. 



Hog, to. 




Pinch, to. 
Quant, to. 









To scrub a ship with flat scrubbing brooms called 

A small apartment made in the ship's bows to 
catch the water flowing through the hawse- 

The aftermost mast of a vessel with two or more 
masts. Sometimes called a jigger. In me- 
dieval four-masters the aftermost mast was 
called the bonaventure mizzen, and the one 
immediately forward of this the main mizzen. 

Sails above the sky-sails. 

A band for keeping the end of a yard to the mast. 

To sail close-hauled. 

To propel a craft along shallow water-ways by 
means of a long pole. 

The line (cutting all the meridians at the same 
angle) which is followed by a ship sailing on 
one course. 

See p. 282. 

Gutters or channels along the outer edge of a 
deck by which water runs off. 

Iron-bound blocks with an opening in which the 
bight of a rope may be laid without threading 
the end of the rope through. 

A strip of timber running round a ship internally 
in line with the deck. 

A narrow sound or channel of water among 

The socket or hinged post for a mast that can be 
lowered at will to pass under bridges, etc. 

See p. 207. 

The incline inwards ot a ship's sides above the 
level of its extreme breadth. 

To veer. 



^GEAN Sea, 33 

Africa, circumnavigation of, by the 
Phcenicians, 21 ; in early map, 
124; geographical knowledge of, 

Agricola, 67 

Alectus, 78 

Alfred, sailors in time of, 17 

Algiers, pirates of, 224 

Amber, Phoenicians and, 26 

Ambleteuse, 73 

America, North, the Vikings and, 


Amundsen, Capt. Roald, 204 

Amyntas III and shipbuilding 
materials, 46 

Anchor work, 258 

Anchors, metal, Athenian Navy, 
44 ; of the king's galleys, middle 
ages, 146 ; Spanish iron for, 180 ; 
of men-o'-war, early 19th cen- 
tury, 278 

Andersen, Capt. Magnus, 90 

Anglo-Dutch wars, 208, 229, 230, 
235, 237-40, 267 

Anne, Queen, seamen in days of, 

Anson's voyage round the world, 
131, 251 

Antipater of Sidon quoted, 32 

Antiphilus quoted, 33 

Arabians, the, as navigators, 122 

Arctic Circle, voyaging to, ll6 

Argand lamp, 244 

Armada, the great, and seaman- 
ship, 1 84 ; wages of seamen at 
time of, 208 ; tactics against, 
218 ; the pirate and, 222 

Arthur's, King, conquests, ll6 

Artillery introduced, 1 80 ; know- 
ledge of, 181 ; of an Elizabethan 
ship, 191; 17th century, 228; 
18th century, 26l ; on men-o'- 
war, 276, 283 

Asia, kings of, build large war- 
ships, 43 

Askoma, 31 

Assyrian sculptures, Phoenician 
biremes in, 19 

Assyrians, the, and the sea, l6 

Astrolabe, the, need for, 1 72 ; its 
origin and name, 172; its use 
described, 173 ; improved for the 
sea, 174; and Columbus, 175; 
importance of those who could 
use it, 175 ; superseded, 212 

Astronomers, the ancients as, 115 

Astronomical measurements in 
navigation, 27 

Athenian Navy, the, 44 ; inven- 
tories of Athenian dockyards, 

Atlantic, the, Arab nJime for, 

Atlas, the first (Wagenaer's), 

Audley, Thomas," Book of Orders," 

Augustus, 68 

Australia, rush to, 288 

Avery, David, 244 

Ayscue, Sir George, 239, 242 

Azores, the, 212, 217 

Baffin's Bay, 88 
Bailak Kibdjaki, 150 



Ballast in ancient Greek ships^ 32 ; 
loose ballast, 289 

Baltimore, piracy at, 223 

Barometer, the, 259 

Bayeux tapestry, ships in the, 137, 

Beachy Head, battle of, 243 

Beacons, 243 

Beaver, Lieut. Philip, 267 

Beazley, Mr. Raymond, quoted, 126 

Bedford, Duke of, First Lord of 
Admiralty, and naval uniforms, 

Behaim, Martin, impi*oves the as- 
trolabe, 174 

Bells, ships', 215, 254 

Benbow, Admiral John, 266 

" Better to break owners than 
orders," 263 

Birds, observations by, 88 

Biremes, Phoenician, 19 ; succeeded 
by trireme, 38 ; number of oars, 

Biscay, the Bay of, 117 

"Bittacle" (i.e. binnacle), 214, 253 

" Bitter end," the, 278 

Bitts, 278 

Bitumen caulking, 19 

''Black Book of the Admiralty," 1 83 

Black Deeps, the, 227 

Blaeu, Wm. J., "The Sea Mirrour," 

Blake, Admiral Robert, and Tuni- 
sian pirates, 224 ; sea com- 
mander, 229 ; and discontent on 
his ships, 236 ; defects in his 
ships, 237; tactics, 238, 239; 
battle off Portland, 240, 241 

Boarding in naval warfare, 62, 183, 

Boatswain, 146 

Bockh's " Corpus Inscriptionum 
Atticarum," 47 

Booms in Ancient Rhodes, 53 


Borough, Admiral William, 217 
Boteler's " Dialogues," 230 
Boulogne (Gesoriacum), 67, 70, 72, 


Bourne, William, on the cross-staff, 
175; " Arte of Shooting," 191 
" Inventions or Devises," 193 
" Regiment for the Sea," 209 
first English book on navigation 
2 1 1 ; on the earth as a globe, 213 
" Treasure for Traueilers," 2l6 
method of registering speed, 21 6 

Bowline, to sail on a, l68 

Boxhauling, 252 

Bridport, Lord, 267 

Bi'igg's logarithms, 248 

Bristol Channel pilot cutters, 31 

Britain, Roman invasion of, 72-7 

British fleet in Roman times (Clas- 
sis Britannica), 67 

British Navy, reorganised in l6l8, 
224 ; under the Commonwealth, 
229 ; fashionable, 229 ; captain's 
pay at end of 17th century, 230 ; 
probable strategy of to-day, 238 ; 
ballast, 289. See also Elizabethan, 

British seamanship and Bi-itish 
supremacy, 219 

Buoys, 214, 226, 244 

Burgh, Hubert de, 143 

Bushnell, Edmund, " Complete Ship- 
Wright," 224 

Bytharne, Jehan, ''Book of War," 

Cables of Viking ships, 108 ; hemp 

and chain, 277, 278 
Cabot, Sebastian, 133 
Cadiz, 235 ; mutiny of, 267 
Caesar and the invasion of Britain, 

5 ; and his fleet, ^9 ', its tactics, 

70 ; invasion of England, 70-7 ; 

seamanship, 74 ; landing, 76 ; 


knowledge of Gaul and Britain, 

Calais, 72 
Calicut, 135 

California gold rush, 288 
Caligula, 81 
Calhs (pirate), 222 
Cambridge, Trinity College, MS. of 

pilgrim voyage, 147 
Canary Isles, 118, 121 
Cannon. See Artillery 
Cape Barfleur, 138 
Cape Blanco, 134 
Cape Bojador, 134 
Cape Nun, 134 
Cape of Good Hope, Vasco da 

Gama and, 22; doubled, 134; 

named, 136 
Cape St. Vincent (Holy Promon- 
tory), 125, 127, 217 
Cape Verde Islands, 134 
Captains, tyrannical, 249 
Carausius, 78, 79 
Carpenter, 146 
Cartagena, 266 
Carthaginian fleet, the, 62 
Cartography. See Map-making 
Catholic Church, the Portuguese 

and the, 131 
Catteville, the race of, 138 
Chain cables, 277 
Chanca, Dr., of Columbus's fleet, 

Chaplains on Elizabethan ships, 

199; of French Navy, 230 ; 18th 

century, 249 
Charles I, mutinies of the Navy, 

Charles II, Navy in time of, 229 ; 

officers, 230 ; and sea charts, 243 
Charles V, 133, 170 
Charts, compilation of, 171 ; Wage- 

naer's, 214, 219; Charles II and 

James II and, 243 ; of British 

coast, 18th century, 256; Eng- 
lish, 257 

Chatham, 184; dockyard, 226, 274 

Chavez, Alonso and Hieronymo de, 
133, 171 

Chelsea pensioners on Anson's 
voyage, 251 

China tea trade, 288-9 

Chinese, the, and the compass, 119; 
voyages of, 119 

Chios, battle of, 52 

Chronometer, the coming of the, 
178, 254 

Church services in Navy, 1 7th cen- 
tury, 227 

Cinque Ports, 140 

Circle, great, sailing, 178, 211, 213 

Civil War, the Navy during the, 

Classis Britannica, 67, 79 

Claudius, 67 

Clerk, John, "Naval Tactics," 269 

Clinton (pirate), 222 

'^ Close-fights," 188 

Clothing, seamen's, 18th century, 

Cockpit, 282 

''Code de la Mer," 151 

Colbert, Jean B., 230 

Colliers, London, of the 18th cen- 
tury, 251 

Collins, Greenville, 243 

Colonies, the, and seamanship, 230 

Colosseum, the, 69 

Colours of men-o'-vpar, 279 J inter- 
nal, 246, 280 

Columbus, Bartolomeo, 156 

Columbus, Christopher, effect of 
Prince Henry's work, 131 ; his 
place, 136; his log, 155; his ships 
and navigation, 1 55 ; his studies, 
156 ; and the Vikings, 156 ; sets 
sail on first voyage, 157; speed, 
158; his helmsman, 158; reckon- 



ings^ 159; sights land, l60; 
homeward bound, 1 60 ; wreck 
of the Santa Maria, l6l ; details 
of the ship, 163-4; food, l64; 
crew, 164 ; religious atmosphere, 
1 65 ; subsequent voyages, 1 Q5 ; 
third voyage, I66; on the shape 
of the earth, 166 ; fourth voyage, 
167 ; and navigating, l67; as 
seaman and navigator, l69; his 
achievements, I69 ; reckoning by 
tonnage, 197 

Compass, the, use by the Chinese, 
119; by Arabians, 119; intro- 
duced to Europe, 119; suspen- 
sion of the needle, 120; the 
fleur-de-lys, 120; its early use, 
124; liquid compass anticipated, 
150; variation recorded by 
Columbus, 158; variation, 212, 
213 ; Elizabethan names for the, 

" Confessio Amantis," 146 

Congo River, 135 

Constable, 146 

Constantinople, 152 

Cook, Capt., 263 

Copper sheathing, 275 

Corinth, triremes built at, 42 ; 
shipbuilding at, 46 

Corn-ships of Egypt, 57 

Cortes, Martin, 171, 211 

Court-martial instituted, 218 

Craft, the working of, 5 

Cretan pirates, 53 

Crew, ship's, of the 13th century, 
141, 146 

Cross-staff, the, 1 74 ; its use de- 
scribed, 176; improved, 212 

Crusades, the, 117, 119, 121 ; Cru- 
saders' journey from Dartmouth, 

Cyprus, temple in, commemorating 
a large ship, 43 


Dartmouth, 138 

Davis, John, as navigator, 155; 
and circle sailing, 178; nautical 
expressions in his logs, 203 ; 
extracts from his "'Traverse- 
Booke," 205;"Seaman's Secrets," 

Davis's quadrant, 246 

Davits, 226 

Deal, Caesar's landing at, 73, 74 

Deane, Admiral, 240 

Decks, 142 

Deptford, seamen's guild, 133, 171 ; 
dockyard, 181, 226, 274 

Diaz, Bartholomew, 135 

Dock, dry, the first, 180 

Docks at Rome, 62 

Dockyards, Royal, 181, 226, 274 

Dover, 67, 72, 76 ; Roman Pharos, 

Dover, Straits of, 72, 77 

Drake, Sir Francis, 5 ; influence of 
Prince Henry the Navigator, 
131 ; as navigatoi", 155 ; Cadiz 
expedition, 217; as strategist, 

^'Drift-sail," 226 

Duff, Capt., of H.M.S. Mars, 279 

Duncan, Admiral, 267, 270 

Dungeness, 77, 236, 289, 290 

Dungeness beacon, 243 

Dunnage, 289 

Dutch as shipbuilders, 231 

Dutch and English seamen, l6th 
century, 206 

Dutch wars. See Anglo-Dutch wars 

East India Company's service, 284- 
287 ; monopoly abolished and 
fleet disbanded, 287 

Economus, battle of, 43, 62 

Eddystone Lighthouse destroyed, 

Edgar, King, 11 6 


Edward II, 144 

Edward III, poem on pilgrim ship 
of the time of, 147 

Edward VI, 1 33 

Egyptian corn-ships, 4, 57 

Egyptian kings of the 4th and 3rd 
centuries b.c. build large war- 
ships, 43 

Egyptians, the ancient, and the 
sea, 11, 12 ; Egyptian ships, 13 ; 
and naval warfare, 1 4 ; naviga- 
tion of, 14; ships and boats in 
the life of the people, 14 ; ship- 
building, 1 5 ; not instinctively 
seamen, l6 

Einar Thambarskelfir, 108 

Elizabethan galleons, 5 

Elizabethan Navy, training of the 
seamen, 184; seamanship, 186; 
supremacy and colonial expan- 
sion, 186 ; clumsy warships, 186 ; 
types of vessels, 186; obstacles 
to boarding, 188; the tumble- 
home, 188 ; colours of ships, 188; 
steering, 1 89 ; arrangements of 
the ships, 188-91; sails, 190; 
armament, 191-4; the captain, 
194; punishments of seamen, 
194 ; the lieutenant, 194 ; duties 
of the crew, 195 ; watches, I96; 
food, 198-202; health, 198; 
chaplain and trumpeter, 199 ; 
life on board, 1 99 ; contemporary 
account of sailing, 199 ; sea terms 
in Elizabethan literature, 203 ; 
their slowness, 206 ; life of a 
captain, 207 ; neglect of the sea- 
men's comfort, 207 ; bad treat- 
ment, 208 ; wages at time of the 
Armada, 208 ; men of the service, 
208 ; flag saluting, 208 ; cause of 
the impetus of the time, 209 ; 
navigation books, 211-16; in- 
struments, 211, 212; strategy. 

tactics, and discipline, 217; court- 

martial, 218; fleet tactics, 218; 

seamanship, 219-20 
Elizabethan seamen as nautical 

experts, 171 
Emigration sailing ships to U.S.A., 

283, 284 
English as shipbuilders, 231 
English Channel, winds, 72 ; the 

Romans in the, 72 ; tides, 74, 

76 ; John Davis and, 211; piracy, 

Equator, the, 178 
Eric, son of Hakon, 109 
Ericson, Thorstein, 87 
Erith Dockyard, 181 
Erling Askew, 94, 101 
Erling Skialgson, 94 
Eruli, 91 
Espagnolo sur Mer, Les, battle of, 

Eudoxus, 27 

Euphrates, shipbuilding on the, 17 
Euripides, terms in, 36 
Eustace the Monk, 143 
Exmouth, Admiral Lord, and pirates 

of Algiers, 224 
Exploration, claims in, 121 

Faroe Isles, II6 

Fenner, Capt., 217 

Fighting instructions, 270 

Fighting tops, 110 

Figureheads, 102, 280 

Fire, braziers of, used by Rhodians, 

Fireships, 53 
Flag, national, use of, by ancient 

Greeks, 48 
Flag saluting, 208 
Flamborough, 243 
Flamstead, John, 212 
Flemming (pirate), 222 
Fleur-de-lys on the compass, 120 

U2 297 


Flintshire, 243 
Flogging, 265, 286 
Fog signalling, 228 
Forelands, beacons on the, 243 
Forest of Dean, 275 
'^ Fothering," 262 
Francesco da Barberino, 151 
Fraser, Edward, " Greenwich Royal 

Hospital," 272 
French as shipbuilders, 231 
French Government and longitude, 

Froissart quoted, 145 

GALioTiE (galley-men), 141, 146 

Gama, Vasco da, 22, 131, 132, 134, 

Gambia, River, discovered, 134 

Gaul, Caesar and, 77 

Genoa and the Genoese, 118, 121, 
156, 180 

Geography, Phoenician influence on 
Greek geography, 26 ; Pytheas 
and geographical knowledge, 27 ; 
Greek and Roman, 114; Ptolemy 
and, ll6 

George II establishes Naval Aca- 
demy, 250 ; and naval uniform, 

Germany, 238 

Gibson, Richard, 240 

Gillianez, 1 34 

Gillingham Reach, 184 

"Glorious First of June," a.d. 1794, 
270, 271, 279 

Gloucester, 67 

Gnomon, the, 27 

Gogstad Viking ship replica, 90 

Gonzales, A., 134 

Goodwin Sands, 77 

Grapnels for boarding, 63, 101, 103 

Greece, Phoenician losses at inva- 
sion of, 20 

Greek fire, 142 


Greek ships, galley, 5 ; how built 

29, 35 ; warships and ramming 

30, 32 ; colouring and sails, 30 
warships, oar-propelled, 31, 37 
ballast, 32 ; their shape, 34 
timber employed, 35 ; other de 
tails, 35-7 ; sailing seasons, 37 
manning of warships, 37 ; biremes 
and triremes, 38-40 ; anchors, 
44 ; quickly built, 46 ; materials 
for, 46 ; shipbuilding yards, 46 
naval tactics, 47 ; seamen, 47 
diekplous and periploiis, 48 
admiral's ships, 48 ; signalling 
49 ; seamanship, 50 ; officers, 50 
a penteconter, 50-1 ; summary, 

Greek words used in connection 

with ships, 34-7, 39-41 
Greeks, Phoenician influence on the, 

Greenland, Venetian voyage to, 1 22 
Greenwich Observatory founded, 

Gregory, ship of, 101 
Guilds, seamen's, 133, 171 
Gulf Stream, the, 88 
Gunnery at time of Armada, 219; 

at time of French wars, 280. 

See also Artillery 
Gunnstein, 109 
Gunpowder, 262 
Gunter's scale, 248 

Haddock, Capt., 242 

Hadley's quadrant, 254 

Hadrian's wall, 67 

Hair, human, for ropes, 54 

Hakluyt, Richard, quoted, 1 1 6, 171, 

Hakon, King, 98, 101, 109, HO 
Hales, Dr., 283 
Halogaland, 97 ; the Halogalanders 

as seamen, 105 


Halley, Edmund, on lead, latitude, 
and look-out, 253 ; quadrant, 

Hamblyn, Robert, 244 

Hammocks introduced by Colum- 
bus, l64 

Hannibalian War, slaves as oars- 
men, 64 

Hanseatic League, 180 

Harald, King, 93, 98, 112 

Harald Hairt'air, 93 

Harek of Thiotta, 94, 100 

Harrison, John and William, invent 
the chronometer, 254 

Harwich beacon, 243 

Hatsopsitu's, Queen, expedition to 
Punt, 12 

Hawke, Lord, 230, 268, 273 

Hawkins, Sir John, and payment 
for his men, 222 

Hawse-pipes, 278 

Heave to, l60 

Heimskringla, the, 105 

Hellespont, bridge of boats across 
the, 23 

Henry VII, 170; encourages ship- 
building, 179 

Henry VIII, 133, 170; decoration 
of his ships, 181, 182 

Henry, Prince, the Navigator, 6 ; 
and Madeira, 122, 134; his in- 
fluence, 126, 132, 133 ; settles at 
Sagres, 127; and the reaching 
of India, 127; his naval college, 
128 ; his work, 129 ; sea route to 
India, 127, 129, 130; and the 
spread of the Catholic Church, 
130; the results of his work, 
131 ; the work of his pupils, 132; 
his discoveries, 134 

Herodotus on the Phoenicians, 21 

Hiei'o II of Syracuse, mosaics on 
ship of, 52 

Hipparchus, 115, 175 

Holland, States of, and longitude, 

Holmes, Mr. T. Rice, quoted, 69 

Homer, references in, to ships, 34 ; 
ship of Homer, 35 

Hood, Admiral, 265, 270 

Houlding, Capt., 241 

Hour-glass, Vikings and the, 89 ; 
hour and half-hourly glasses, 215, 

Howard, Lord, of Effingham, tactics 
of, 218; and the plague on his 
ships, 222 

Howe, Lord, tactics of, 270, 271 

Hull, Kingston-on-, 133; seamen's 
guild, 171 

Hutchinson, William (" Practical 
Seamanship"), on a tyrannical 
captain, 249 ; on seamanship, 
250 ; on the men of the mer- 
chant service, 251 ; on colliers, 
252, 257; on boxhauling, 252; 
on the steering wheel, 256 ; on 
the barometer, 259 ; on square- 
sails, 260 ; pilots, 260 ; method 
of stopping leaks, 263 ; of scrub- 
bing ship's bottoms, 263 ; sails, 

Hynmers, Richard, 215 

Hypozomata, 30 

Iceland, II6 

India, sea path to, 118; Prince 

Henry the Navigator and sea 

route to, 127, 129, 130; the 

opening of the sea route to, 134 ; 

Portuguese expeditions to, 135 ; 

Vasco da Gama's voyage, 136 ; 

Drake and the East Indian trade 

Indian Ocean, 119 
Ingi, King, 93 
Irish Sea, pirates in the, 223 



Jamaica trade, 249 

JameSj St., shrine of, 147 

James I and pirates, 223, 224 ; 

ships of his time, 228 
James II, Navy in the time of, 

229 ; and sea charts, 243 
Jervis, Admiral. See St. Vincent, 

" Jimmy Green," 265, 283 
Jordaine, Sir Joseph, 242 

Kempenfelt, Capt., 269 
Keppel, Admiral, 266 
Kingsdown, 76 

Kingston-upon-Hull. See Hull 
Knut, King, 94, 98, 106 
Korumba, 46 

L's, the five, 252 

Lagos, 127, 128 

Lanterns, poop, of Stuart vessel, 246 

Launching, 1 7th century, 225 ; of 

the Prince Royal, 232 et seq. ; cf. 

"wooden walls," 275 
Laws, maritime, of Rhodes, 55 ; 

Medieval codes, 151 ; Venetian, 

Lawson, Sir John, 241 
Leaks, methods of stopping, 262 
Lebanon timber for Phoenician 

ships, 18 
Leif, son of Eric the Red, 91 
Leonidas of Tarentum quoted, 33 
Lestock, Richard, 266 
Levant, The, 118 
Liburnians, the, of Dalmatia, QQ 
Lieutenants, 17th centui-y, 229; 

18th century, 251 
" Light of Navigation, The," 228 
Lightbody, James, " Mar'ner's 

Jewel," 1 89, 225 ; on bittacles, 214 
Lighthouses, ancient Greek, 45 ; 

beacons, 243 ; the Argand lamp, 



Lights on promontories in the 
Middle Ages, 145, 243 

Lightships, 244 

Line of battle, 242 

Lisbon, 156 

Live stock on sailing ships, 283 

Liverpool pilots, 260 

Loadstone, the, 115 

Log-book, 256 

Log-line, introduction of the, 178, 
216; patent log, 217 

Longitude, 211, 253; rewards for 
instruments, 254 ; by lunar obser- 
vations, 254 ; the chronometer 
invented, 254 

Look-out, the, 228 

Lotus plant, the, in Egyptian ships, 

Lowestoft, battle of, 242 ; beacon, 

Lucian, 3, 57 

Lulli, Raymond, 129 

Macedonia, King of, builds large 
warships, 43 

Macham, discoverer of Madeira, 

Machico, 122 

Madeira, discovery of, 122; redis- 
covery, 134 

Magazines on men-o'-war, 277 

Magellan, Ferdinand, 131 

Magister, 146 

Magnus, ship of, 112 

Magnusson, Dr. Eirikr, quoted, 
105, 107 

Mahan, Admiral, quoted, 268 

Malaga, battle of, 267 

Malocello, 118, 121 

Man, Isle of, 243 

Manger, 278 

Map-making, Ptolemy and, 1 1 6 ; 
early Venetian, 124 ; portolani, 


Marinelli (mariners), 141, 146 

Maritime arts only among sea- 
faring people, 11 

Maritime discovery, the ancients 
and, 1 14 

Maritime progress. Prince Henry 
the Navigator and, 133 

Markham, Sir Clements, quoted on 
Seville training in navigation, 

Martin V, Pope, 134 

Maskelyne, Dr., Astronomer Royal, 

Maspero, Prof., on the Egyptians 
and the sea, 1 1 

Masts, length of, 17th century, 22.5 

Match-tubs, 282 

Matthews, Admiral Thomas, 266 

Mediterranean, the, Egyptian ships 
on the, 12 ; Phoenicians in the, 

Medway, the, 184 

Melinda, 136 

Men-o'-war. See Wooden walls. 

Mercator, Gerard, "Mappemonde," 
219; chart, 248 

Meridians, converging, Ptolemy 
and, ll6 

Messahala on the astrolabe, 175 

Meteorology. Virgil's description 
of weather, 83-4 

Midshipmen, 18th century, 251 

Minnes, Vice-Admiral, 242 

Misenum, 66 

Missionaries as geographical dis- 
coverers, 117 

Monck, Admiral, 229, 241 

Monson, Sir William, " Naval 
Tracts," 194, 198, 226 

Moon-dial, the, 248 

Moore's " Midshipman's Vocabu- 
lary," 263 

Moorish pirates, 223 

Mozambique, 136 

Mutinies at Spithead, the Nore, 

etc., 267 
Mykenaeans, the, and decorated 

sails, 51 
Myonnesos, battle of, 52 

Nansen, Dr., on Pytheas, 28; on 

the Vikings, 85, 90, 92 
Napier, John, and logarithms, 224 
Narrow Seas, the, 214, 219 
Nature, man and the forces of, 10 
Naumachia, 68 
Nautae (sailors), 141, 146 
" Nautical Almanac," 254 
Nautical words. See Sea terms 
Naval Academy, Portsmouth, 250 
Naval education in Portugal, 128 
et seq. ; in England, 229 ; in 
France, 230 ; 17th century, 248 ; 
18th century, 250 
Naval warfare in England, early, 
144; as a science, 182; 18th- 
century tactics, 267, 268. See 
also Tactics 
Navigation, the beginning of, 5 ; 
of the ancient Egyptians, 14; 
of the Phoenicians, 19, 22; 
Pytheas and, 27 ; as described 
by Virgil, 83 ; by instinct, 86 ; 
of the Vikings, 86-90; the 
ancients and, 114; the Arabians 
and, 122; Prince Henry the 
Navigator and, 128 et seq.; first 
book on, by an Englishman, 211; 
early English books, 211-16 ; in- 
struments of the Elizabethans, 
211, 212; in the l7th century, 
224; in the 18th century, 253; 
methods of 18th-century coasters, 
Navy, Royal. See British Navy 
Neco, King of Egypt, and the cir- 
cumnavigation of Africa, 21 
Nelson, Lord, signal at Trafalgar, 



271 ; the battle of St. Vincent, 
271 ; the Victory, 275 ; cost of a 
man-o'-war in his time, 276 ; 
colours of his ships, 280 

Nemi, Lake, Roman boats, 78, 81 

Nesiar, battle of, 101 

New Forest, 275 

Newcastle colliers, 230, 251, 256 

Newcastle-on-Tyne Seamen's Guild, 

Nile, the, 12 

Nile barge, huge, 43 

Nocturnal, the, 248 

Nore Lightship, 244 

Nore, mutiny at the, 267 

Norse discoveries, 117 

Norsemen, the, and navigation, 2. 
See also Vikings 

North Foreland, battle off the, 242 

North-West Passage, 204 

Norwood, Richard, " Seaman's Prac- 
tice," 216 

Nunez, Pedro, 178 

Oak for men-o'-war, 275 
Oarsmen on triremes, 39 et seq.; 

on Viking ships, 112 
Octher, 116 
Officers of Navy of 18th century, 

Olaf Tryggvason, King, 94, 96, 100, 

101, 103 
Oleron, laws of, 151 
Oppenheim, Mr. N., quoted, 182, 

Orfordness, 243 
Ostend, 241 

Palinurus, the pilot, 83 

Palos, 156 

Pavia University, Columbus at, 156 

Pay of Navy, mutinies, 267 

Pedro, Prince, 127 

Peloponnesian War, 38 


Penn, Admiral Sir William, 241 
Pentekontoroi (Greek warships), 37, 

50, 51 
Pepys, Samuel, 229 
Petrie, Prof Flinders, on shipbuild- 
ing in Egypt, 15, 51 
Pett, Sir Phineas, 231 
Petts, the, as shipbuilders, 231 
Philip II, neglect of, in saluting, 

Philip III of Spain, 254 
Phoenicians, the, as seamen, 12, l6; 
build a fleet for Sennacherib, 
17 ; a race of seamen, 18 ; their 
ships and crews, 1 8 ; their naviga- 
tion, 19, 22; biremes, 19; their 
losses, 20 ; piracy, 20 ; their 
voyages, 21 ; circumnavigation 
of Africa, 21 ; the first great 
seamen, 23 ; engineers, 23 ; 
Xenophon's record of their ships, 
23 ; influence on the Greeks, 26 
Pilgrim ship of Fdward III, 147 
Pilgrims as discoverers, 117 
Pilot, grand, of England, 133, 226 
Pilot major, 133, 170 
Pilots, 170; "loadsmen," 172; 

Mersey, 260 ; Tyne, 260 
Piracy, Phoenician, 20 ; in Roman 

times, 6& ; in Tudor times, 184 
Pirates, Mediterranean, 152; in 
Ehzabethan times, 222; 17th 
century, 223 ; Moorish, 223 ; 
Tunisian, 224 ; Algerian, 224 
Plymouth Dockyard, 274 
Plymouth Sound, brig in, 257 
Pole, North, Pytheas and the, 27 
Polo, Marco, 130 
Popham, Admiral Edward, 229 
Popham's, Sir Home, code, 271 
Portland, battle off, l653, 240 
Portland beacon, 243 
Portolani, 124 
Portsmouth, first dry dock at, 180; 


dockyard established, 181 ; ships 
from, wintered on Medway, 184; 
dockyard, 226, 274; Naval 
Academy, 250 

Portuguese, their maritime know- 
ledge, 125, 128 ; influence of, on 
seamanship, 133; concession to 
the King of Portugal, 1 34 ; their 
discoveries, 134, 135 ; discoverers 
able to keep at sea, 154 ; enter- 
prise in shipbuilding, 219; as 
navigators, 219 

Post, Roman imperial, 57 

Powder-monkeys, 282 

Premiums on speed of tea clippers, 

Pressgang, the, 251 

Prester John, 135 

Privateering in Tudor times, 184; 
in 18th century, 26 1 ; tactics, 

Prize, division of, Elizabethan times, 

Provisioning by live stock, 283 

Ptolemy, 115, ll6 

Ptolemy Philopator builds huge 
ship, 43 

Punic Wars, 62, 64 

Punt, Land of, 12 

Purser, 146 

Pursser (pirate), 222 

Pytheas of Massilia, the pioneer 
of navigation, 6, 27 ; his voyages 
of discovery, 28 

Quadrant, Davis's, 212; Flam- 
stead's, 212; Halley's, 212 
Quadriremes and quinquiremes, 38, 


Rameses II, galleys of, 12 

Ramming, Greek warships and, 30, 
41 ; method of, by Rhodians, 
52 ; in the Middle Ages, 143 

Raud the Unchristened, 104 

Ravenna, 66 

Ravens used by the Vikings, 87 

Rawlinson, Professor George, on 
biremes, 19 ; on Phoenician navi- 
gation, 22 

Reckonings, 256 

Rectores (masters), 141, 146 

Red Sea, the, 12 

Reef, 145 

Renaissance, the, and cartography, 
124 ; and shipping, 170 

Rhodes, ancient, ships of, 52 ; 
celoces, 52 ; naval tactics, 52 ; 
ramming, 52 ; naval organisa- 
tion, 53 ; shipbuilding, 53 ; sea 
prowess, 54 ; as a port, 54 ; sea 
law, 55 ; " Code Navale des 
Rhodiens," 151 

Rhumb-Hnes, 213 

Richard I and his Crusader fleet, 
139 ; liis naval tactics, 143 

Richardson, Wm., "A Mariner of 
England," 264 

Rigging, wire, 289 

Rochelle, action off, 273 

Rodney, Admiral Lord, 230 ; sig- 
nals, 266 ; Battle of the Saints, 
268 ; victories of, 270 

Roman boat found at Westminster, 

Roman galley, 5 ; shipowners, 56-7 ; 
merchants and barge-owners_, 57 ; 
corn -ships, 57; warships, 6l, 
65 ; docks, 62 ; the fleets, 62, 
66, 67 ; naval warfare, 62 ; 
squadrons, 64 ; standing navy 
abolished, 64 ; Romans not sea- 
men, 64 ; naval officers, 64 ; 
piracy, 66 ; the classiarii, 67 ; 
influence of the navy on land, 
68 ; Csesar's fleet, 69 ; its tactics, 
70 ; invasion of Britain, 72-7 ; 
as shipwrights, 77-82 ; Romano- 



British ships, 79 ; boat found at 
Westminster, 78-81 ; Lake Nemi 
boats, 78, 81-2 ; Virgil's descrip- 
tions, 82-4 

Roman pharos at Dover, 243 

Rome, victualling of, 56 ; docks at, 

Romney Marsh, 77 

Ropes, ancient Greek, 31 

"Rosa Solis," 207 

Royal Naval College, 250 

Royal Navy. See British Navy 

Rudders of Viking ships, 107; 
change of position of rudders, 
146, 152 

Rupert, Prince, 242 

Ruyter's, Admiral de, 242 

Sagas, descriptions from the, 92 et 

Sagres, 127-9 
Sailing season, 151 
Sailors. >SVe Seamen 
Sails, ancient Greek, 30 ; in the 

Middle Ages, 137, 145; of the 

Elizabethan ships, 190; 18th 

century, 264 ; spritsails, 265 ; 

beginning of the 19th century, 

St. Albans (Aldhelm's) Head light, 

145, 243 
St. Andrew's cross, 209 
St. George's ensign, 183, 209 
St. Vincent, Admiral Lord, 230, 

St. Vincent, battle of, 271 
Saints, Battle of the (1782), 265, 

268, 270 
Salamis, battle of, triremes at, 38 
Saluting by flag, 208 
Sandgate, 76 
Sandwich, Earl, 240, 242 
Sandwich, 276 
Scandinavians as sailors, 93 


I "Scarfing," 282 
Schey, Rear-Admiral, 243 
Scribes on Mediterranean ships, 

Scuppers, 278 
Sea, humanity's debt to the, 6 ; 

fear of the, 1 1 
Sea sayings, 263 
Sea sense, the, 8 

Sea terms in Homer, etc., 35 et seq.; 
in Elizabethan literature, 203 ; 
in current use, 206 
Seamanship becoming a lost art, 4; 
slowness of advance in early 
times, 120; of the Middle Ages, 
137 et seq. ; first book on, 151 ; 
of time of Columbus, 1 60 ; early 
treatises on, 171 ; East India 
Company's service and, 287 ; in 
the 19th century, 274 
Seamen, hardships of, 3, 7 ; the want 
of consideration for, 7 ; the sea- 
man character, 8 ; bond between, 
8 ; of the 18th century, 251, 266 
Sennacherib and his fleet, I6 
Senofern and shipbuilding in an- 
cient Egypt, 15 
Seppings, Sir Robert, 282 
Sesostris, sacred barge of, I6 ; huge 

Nile barge, 43 
Seville, Contractation House, 170 
Seville training in navigation, 178 
Sextant, the, 174, 254 
Seyff'ert, Dr. Oskar, and Greek 

ships, 38 
Shakespeare and sea terms, 203 
Sheathing with copper, 226, 275 
Sheer hulk, 275 
Sheerness Dockyard, 274 
Ship of the 13th century described, 

140; fighting methods, 142 
Shipbuilding in ancient Egypt, 15 ; 
earliest English book on, 224 ; of 
wooden ships under cover, 282 


Shipowners, Roman, servants of the 

State, 52-3 
Ships, ancient Egyptian, 13-16 
Ships, measuring of, 224 ; construc- 
tion of, 17th century, 227; 
painted red internally, 246, 
Ship's bottoms, scrubbing, 263 
Ships named : 

Association, 273 

Assurance, 240 

Biso7i, 103 

Blanche Nef, 138 

Capitana, l65 

Centaur, 82 

Chimoera, 82 

Crane, 96, 101, 104 

Dorsetshire, 273 

Dragon, 104 

Eagle, 273 

Edinburgh, 273 

Elisabeth, 204 

Fairfax, 241 

Falcon, 288 

Fierij Cross, 288 

George, 237 

Goddess I sis, 59 

Great Harry, 181 

Helene, 204 

Lowg' Worm, 96, 101 

Marigalante, 197 

H.M.S. Mar*, 279 

M«7-y (Charles II), 5, 241 

Mauretania, 4 

H.M.S. Minerva, 264 

Nina, 155, 157 e< .yeg'. 

Olympic, 4 

Pinta, 155, 157 e^ ^eq". 

Prince Royal, 231-5 

Pristis, 82 

Radians, 79 

i?erf L?:o?i, 204 

Royal James, 242 

i??<6_y, 241 

Ships named : 

-Srm FeApe, 217, 218 

Santa Maria, 155 e/ *eg'. ; de- 
sci'ibed, l63 

Scylla, 82 

Seaforth, 289 

^Aor^ ?Fom, 97, 101, 103, 

Sovereign of the Seas, 244 

Speaker, 241 

Sunneshine, 204 

Swiftsure, 237 

Taeping, 290 

Triumph, 240, 241 

Vanguard, 241 

Victory (Nelson's), 275 

^om, 97, 101, 103, 104 
Ships, types of, named : 

Aphraktos, 65 

Barque, 204 

Bireme, I9, 40, 6Q 

Brig, 252, 257 

Carabela (caravel), 128, 137, 
157, 168 

Carack, 219 

Celox, 52 

Ceol, 110 

Clipper, 274, 288, 289 

Cock-boat, 199 

ColHer, 251, 256 

Dieres, 52 

Dragon, QQ, 112 

Dromon, 94 

East Indiaman, 249, 274, 284 

Frigate, 276 

Galleon, 199 

Galley, 1 2, 46 

Kataphraktos, 65 

Kaupskip, 95 

Keel, 110 

Knorr, 95 

Lateener, I68 

Lembus, 65, 6Q 

Liburnian, Q6 



Ships, types of, named : 

Man o'-war, " high charged," 
186; "wooden walls," 274 
Navis aperta, 66 
Navis tecta, 65 

Pentekontoros, 37, 38, 50,5 1 , 65 
Penteres, 52 
Pinnace, 190 
Privateer, 26 1 
Quadrireme, 42, 51, 65 
Quinquireme, 38, 43, 51, 62, 

Skeid, 95 
Skuta, Q5 
Snekkja, Q5 

Tea clipper, 274, 288, 289 
Three-decker, 276, 283 
Tetreres, 52 
Triemiolia, 52 

Triremes, 24, 38-40, 50, 51, 
54, 62, 65, 66, 79 
Shoreham, battle of, 183 
Shovel, Sir Cloudesley, wreck of, 

254 ; on Great Storm, 272 
Sicily, King of, builds large war- 
ships, 43 
Sidney, Sir Philip, 190 
Sidon, sailors of, 17, 20, 22 
Signal book, 270 

Signalling, ancient Greek, 49 ; in 
Tudor times, 183 ; 17th century, 
Signals, Rodney's, 266, 268 
Sigurd, King, 93, 95, 100, 106 
Sigurd, Bishop, 104 
" Skipper," 206 
Skopti, 109 

Slave trade, Phoenician, 20 
Sluys, battle of, 144 
Smith, Capt. John, " Accidence," 
195; account of life aboard an 
Elizabethan ship, 199 ; on pirates, 
Sofala, 136 


Solebay, battle of, 242 

Sounding lead, Vikings use, 89 

South Pole, 204 

Southampton Water, 263 

Spain and iron supplies, Tudor 
times, 180 ; jealousy of, in Eliza- 
bethan days, 209 

Spaniards and gunnery, Armada, 


Spanish warships, sailors cook for 
themselves on board, 153; sig- 
nalling in the, 183 

Spars, steel, 289 

Speed recording without log, 158 

Spithead, mutiny at, 267 

Spritmast, 283 

Squaresails, 260 

Starboard, 108 

Statham's " Privateers and Pri- 
vateering," 261 

Steel, Robert, and Son, Greenock, 

Steering wheels, 256, 272-3 

Sterns, decorated, 280, 282 

Stokes Bay, 239 

Storm, great, of 1703, 272 

Strabo on the Sidonian navigation, 

Stuart seamanship, 235 

Stuart warships, 244 ; rig and sails, 
244 ; decks and armament, 245- 
6 ; workmanship and decora- 
tion, 245-8 

Sturmanni (steersmen), 141, 146 

Suez Canal, 288 

Surgeons, 282 

Svein, King, 93, 101, 108 

Swearing, 265 

Swin Channel, 214, 258 

Syria, 152 

Tacking, the art of, 10 
Tactics, naval, 17th century, 238; 
in Anglo-Dutch war, 239 ; line- 


ahead, 239; schools of, 240 
18th century, 268 ; French, 268 
Clerk's "Naval Tactics," 269 
Lord Howe's changes, 270 
Jervis's tactics, 271 

Tampion's portable barometer, 259 

Tartaglia, Nicholas, "Arte of Shoot- 
ing," 2l6 

Tea chppers, 288, 289 

Tetricus the Elder, 78 

Texel, mutiny off the, 26? 

Thames estuary, 77, 214, 258 

Thames, Roman boat found in the, 

Thames waterman as seaman, 12 

Thanet, 77 

Themistocles and a navy, 38 

Thole-pins, 35 

Thorburg Shavehewer, 9^, 97 

Thorleif the Sage, 109 

Thorowgood, Capt. Thomas, 236 

Tides, the, Pytheas and, 28 ; in the 
English Channel, 74, 76 

Tigris, shipbuilding on the, 1 7 

Tillers, steering, in use, 1703,272 

Timber of ancient Gi'eek vessels, 

Time as recorded by Elizabethans, 

Tin, Phoenicians and, 21, 26 

Tonnage, reckoning by, 197 

Torr, Mr. Cecil, quoted, 45, 49, 54 

Torres, Capt. Antonio de, 197 

Torrington, Lord, 243 

Tower of London, 184 

Trade routes, ancient, and the 
Phoenicians, 26 

" Trade " wind, 207 

Trafalgar, battle of, 279 ; Nelson's 
signal, 271 

''Trani, Loi de," 151 

Travel, desire for, 121 

Traverse board, 256 

Trestle-trees, 207 

Triremes, Greek, 38 ; arrangement 
of, 39 ; number of oars, 40 ; rig- 
ging, 42 

Tristan, 134 

Tromp, Marten, 238, 239 

Trumpeter on Elizabethan ships, 

Tudor colours, the, 181 
Tudor period, sailors in the, 17 
Tudor ships, life on, 1 79 ; victual- 
ling, 179; health, 179; ship- 
building, 180; naval weapons, 
1 80 ; foreign shipbuilding for 
Henry VIII, 180 ; artillery, 181 ; 
decorated ships, 181, 182; crew 
of the Great Harry, 181 ; rate of 
pay, 182; fleet orders, 182; 
signalling, 183; tactics, 183 
Tunisian pirates, 224 
Tyne, the, 257 ; Tyne pilots, 260 

Uniforms originate in France, 230 ; 

adopted in English Navy, 271 ; 

how blue and white originated, 

Union Jack, 245 
United States, emigration sailing 

ships to, 283 ; length of voyage, 


Veneti, the, 69 

Venetian maps, 124 ; shipping sea- 
son restricted, 152; shipping 
laws, 1 53 ; and the Atlantic, 
154; position on the sea, 154; 
decline, 154 

Venetians, the, 118, 122 

Venice, Arsenal at, 180 

Ventilation of ships, 283 

Vikings, the, ships, 4, 5 ; as sea- 
men, 16; as warriors and ex- 
plorers, 85 ; their sea sense, 86; 
sense of time, 87 ; navigation 



methods, 87-90 ; and discovery 
of North America, 90 ; repHca of 
Gogstad ship's voyage, 90 ; ex- 
tent of voyages, 90; provisioning, 
91 ; descriptions from the Sagas, 
92-5 ; moving of ships, 93 ; 
winter saihng, 92, 93 ; species 
of craft, 95 ; building a ship, 96 ; 
fitting-out season, 100 ; naval 
tactics, 101 ; sails, 105 ; steering, 
107 ; cables, 108 ; precedence for 
berthing, 1 09 ; row-boats, 1 09 ; 
mooring, 110; fighting tops, 110; 
awnings, 110; messing, 111; bail- 
ing, 112; oarsmen, 112; fighters 
and seamen, 113 ; as discoverers, 
117, 121 

Virgil's description of ships and 
sea, 82-4 

Vivaldi, 118 

Volusenus, 72 

Voyages without 
methods, 6 


Wagenaer's atlas, 214 ; charts, 219 
War and shipbuilding, 85 
War vessels, ancient, 43, 44 
Wars of the Roses, 85 
"Watches" in Elizabethan ships, 

Water-compass, 119 

West Indies, 170, See also Colum- 

Westminster, Roman boat found at, 

Whales, observations by, 88 

Whipstaff, 189 

William the Conqueror, 5, 138 

Winds, waves, and tides, awe of, 1 

Wissant, 75 

Wolf the Red, 97 

" Wooden walls," 274 ; oak for the, 
275 ; the life of, 275 ; building, 
275 ; rig, description, and cost, 
276 ; cables, 277, 278 ; colours 
of, 279, 280 ; gunnery, 280 

Woolwich Dockyard established, 
181, 226, 274 

Woolwich, launch at, in l6lO, 232 

Wright, Edward, " Haven- finding 
Art," " Certaine Errors in Navi- 
gation," 212 

Xenophon on Phoenician ships, 23 
Xerxes and the Phoenicians, 23 

Yarmouth Roads, 257 
Young, Capt., and neglect of Dutch 
to salute, 208 

Zamorano, Roderigo, 133, 171 
Zeno, the brothers, 122 





trf»' tin^t, yiittj-i 

l-iw>-r ijriirttl* rfSirjJA ' 


I. Body Pl: 

I. Brrav Plan, etc;., of an Kmii.v NixETEENTH-C'EXTiinv 74-Gi.n Smi] 



f Hah fot l.,..nig np FHAME TlMUEaS ii-. 


Vlan md Elevation .t » Poh rAHi.F. f KAB . 

It. A P.iRTAnr.K Cu\n VVtNi n m- the Eaiilv Mineteenth Cknti 



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1\'. A ;i;iO-ToN Merchant Ship of tiik Eaiilv Ninvtikkatii Centi'ry. 

UjiIim'iltuHlralion shows mothoil of fi-iunui;;. I.fiwrr illu^itnitiim ^ivi's ].liiii >if ii[]i |. . i, ki.Ii. .r m. |...-ir ,,,. ' liittche», c«i«tftH, pnmm •ic (S««Clia|'t.r \.) 

TPK MOTON Ships midship Sectiox. 

Jtti-frjeitfi/ii] llir Fl-fr. Srrt'nd Fu/fVcA- iliWlc FuOfel t-Tapfimltcr. 


VI Design of the Stern or a\ Emily Nineteentii-Centurv 
330-Ton Mkrchant SHit*. 

VII. MrnsHip Section op 33()-Ton Mehchant Ship of the 
Emily Nixetebntii Century. 

V'. Shhouds of Mainmast, Exulv 
Xineteentii-Centuhy Ship. 


VIII.' Longitudinal Plan of an Kahly N'ineteentii-Ckntuhy 330-Ton Mehchaniman. 

\^-\\^\i oelwej-ii [.fi-pi-nrliciiliirs, 108 fr. 81 in. ExtroniP bn-.Tltli, 27 fl. <1 In. Ileplh, 12 (I, r,'jn((tl^on keel, ^S ft. 

/'2J.V OF BE cry DECK 

IX. Plans of an Earl-Pineteenth-Ciy T'K 


/■ij.v or BE ac.v iiEcx 

IX. Plans of an Earl^Nineteenth-Ciy 1\( 



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